Salvation Army ringer accused of stealing red kettle from blind bell ringer in Houston

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Salvation Army believes one of its own is behind the theft of a blind bell ringer's kettle.

Harris County deputies say Niles Donovan Williams was caught on camera walking away with the bucket while he was in his Salvation Army uniform.

The organization says he was an employee at the time, but was not supposed to be walking away with the kettle.

The bucket belonged to another employee.

A blind bell ringer had the kettle stolen while he used the bathroom.

"It's disgusting," Houston resident Ron Lombard said. "It's actually disgusting."

"It's disturbing and disgusting about something like that happening," Houston resident Edward Flores said.

The incident happened at the West FM 1960 Walmart, just days before Christmas.

Once the Salvation Army said Williams was charged with theft, he was terminated.

"Out of the thousands, and thousands and thousands of bell ringers that were hired nationwide this season, this is just one incident and as soon as it happened we immediately called police," Salvation Army Captain Jay Ward said.

The Salvation Army does background checks on the seasonable employees it hires.

Prior to this incident, Williams was charged with burglary of a vehicle.

A crime that the Salvation Army said may not have excluded him from the job.

"I know that a lot of times the Salvation Army does give second chances to those individuals who had a rough past because if you can't get a second chance at the Salvation Army, where will you get a second chance," Ward said.

The theft couldn't have come at a worse time for the non-profit.

They were already hurting for cash due to fewer people dropping money into its buckets leaving the organization $400,000 short of its goal.

"When you put budgets together, figures together that's pretty significant," Salvation Army Major Kent Davis said. "That could be a program. That could be positions."

Williams theft may have only been a few hundred dollars, but this year, every dollar is significant.

"I hope the person sees this and reconsiders what they did," Lombard said.

A drop in the bucket earned by a blind bell ringer who hopes the money is returned.

Although the red kettle campaign has ended, the Salvation Army is still collecting donations to help close its funding gap.

If you're interested in donating, click here.

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