BURLINGTON, N.C. -- Commanding Officer Lt. Derrick Smith, with the Salvation Army of Alamance County, says a man dressed as bell ringer walked off with a red kettle with about $800 inside on Friday at the Lowes Foods on University Drive in Burlington.
“He had on a Salvation Army bell-ringing apron,” Smith said.
Smith says the suspect told the bell ringer on duty he was there to give him a ride home, something the nonprofit does for all its bell ringers.
“Said that he's here to relieve him,” Smith said. “Our bell ringer thought nothing of it.”
The ringer on duty went to the bathroom, but when he came back, everything was gone.
“The gentleman had taken off with the kettle and the stand,” Smith said.
Smith says he doesn't know if it was an inside job but says the theft is suspicious.
“Obviously, this person had some inside information,” he said.
“This is devastating for us,” he said. “It takes away from the mouths of kids as well as others in our community.”
Shoppers nearby were in shock that someone would steal from those in need at Christmas.
“It's a tragedy, is what it is, for people to take away from the people that really need it at this time of the year,” said Alan Bailey, who lives in Gibsonville.
“There are just so many opportunities to scam folks,” shopper Tammy Myrick said.
“That's just evil,” said Charna Sansbury, who lives in Burlington. “Why would anyone feel like they had to steal from the kettle?”
The theft is still under investigation.
Money raised from the red kettle campaign goes towards rent assistance, utilities and food for local families in need.