Red kettles stolen from Salvation Army

December 22, 2010 6:26:17 PM PST
They're symbols of the holiday spirit. But some red kettle donations meant to help the less fortunate have ended up in the pockets of thieves. The Salvation Army says thieves are swiping red kettles and it's happened several times this week. Money Houstonians kindly set aside to help the less fortunate has disappeared, along with the red kettles.

Mamie is a very enthusiastic bell ringer for her Salvation Army red kettle. But now that kettle is chained and padlocked to its stand and Mamie keeps a watchful eye on it.

"If they try to take it now, they have to take the whole thing and its gonna be a mess," Mamie told us.

The reason for the precautions are that three donation kettles have been stolen in the Houston area in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to four this month - one in north and northwest Harris County, one in north Houston and one in southwest Houston.

In one case, thieves distracted the volunteers who ring the bells.

"There was an elderly person who seemed like they needed help. The kettle worker turned around to help them, they turned back around and saw the kettle in a truck driving off. So every situation has been different," said Juan Alanis of the Salvation Army Greater Houston Area Command.

Spare change and dollar bills are a small heist for a thief, but for the Salvation Army, that money helps people and families in need and puts toys under otherwise bare Christmas trees.

"That could have gone toward Christmas gifts, gone toward social services that families might need during this time of the year," said Alanis.

It's a loss for the Salvation Army and for those who give cheerfully to the kettles. It raises the question, is nothing sacred?

"Maybe it's drug-related. What other reason would somebody steal the Salvation Army kettle," said Shelley Cox.

The bells keep ringing though. The hope that what was taken will be provided for and that a thief might have a change of heart in the spirit of the season.

The Salvation Army said it is cooperating fully with local law enforcement agencies and taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their kettle workers.


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