SPOKANE — A thief stole an unknown amount of money and a great deal of Holiday cheer on Saturday when he made off with a Salvation Army kettle at a South Hill grocery store.
A Salvation Army bell ringer told officers he was collecting donations about 4 p.m. Saturday at Rosauers, 2610 E. 29th Ave., when a man approached him and asked if he’d ever been robbed, according to the Salvation Army.
A short time later, another man came up to the bell ringer acting as if he was going to donate, but instead unhooked the kettle and ran off. The bell ringer told police the thief may have been the first man in disguise.
Rhonda Brooks, the Christmas Kettle coordinator, said that the thief was wearing a ski mask when he took off with kettle. The bell ringer had been on duty about an hour or two before the incident, which was captured by Rosauers security cameras.
The kettle has not been recovered.
The Salvation Army has collected money at red kettles with bell ringers in Spokane for nearly 125 years, said Dan Curley, the Salvation Army’s development director. It raised about $330,000 during its campaign last year – about $20,000 less than the year before.
Curley said the theft is more disheartening because early indications are that the campaign already was off last year’s lower pace.
“So every dollar that we raise is crucial,” Curley said.
Donations support programs that help the homeless, foster children and low-income families. There are 61 kettle locations in Spokane County this year, Brooks said.
Kettle theft is extremely rare, said Sheila Geraghty, the Salvation Army’s business administrator.
“He must be so desperate,” Geraghty said. “I kind of felt bad for him – a little bit.”