They're as much a part of the holiday fabric as the twinkling lights strung across rooftops. The red kettle, the volunteer ringing the bell--they are familiar sights during the holiday season.
And in this holiday season more than ever, the Salvation Army is asking for the public's help.
For the second time in a week, someone stole a red kettle full of donations from the Salvation Army.
Not only did the Salvation Army lose hundreds of dollars when the thieves stole the kettles, but right now donations are very low, down about $35 thousand from this time last year. They are far from their campaign goal this year of $600,000.
That’s why the Salvation Army is asking for all of our help. Whether it’s pitching in to donate, or giving police information about the thefts.
Both happened at Wal-Marts. The first one happened on November 30 at the Wal-Mart at 8250 Razorback Road. The second, Friday Dec. 7, took place at the Wal-Mart at 5550 East Woodmen Road. The thefts were just one week apart and only about five miles from each other.
Salvation Army officials say it’s a crime that’s disappointing and cuts deep.
"We look for people to donate, so that means the people who made those donations, they're the ones who went out of their way to make the contributions no that's been taken so it's a double hit. Of course for us to lose the money, but they specifically helped us out so that's really disappointing,” said Major John Bennett.
A local family we talked to, the Cuccaro Family, volunteers as bell ringers each year, saying it’s their way of giving back.
“We are so blessed. It always amazes all of us to really reflect on how much we have and how much other people don’t have and if we can do a small part for raising money so the Salvation Army can help out other people, we’re humbled to do that,” said father Mike Cuccaro.
It’s a tradition they think is important to do as a family, including their two sons Seth and Ian. The parents want to teach them their belief that giving is the secret to life.
“We just think it’s good to teach the kids to do nice things for other people,” said mother Kerry Cuccaro.
The family was upset to hear that someone stole the red kettle from the same store they were volunteering at.
"I was shocked that someone would take money that meant to be used for other people in the community that are having a hard time. It's a sad thing that people are at that point of desperation and uncaring about other people like that,” said Kerry Cuccaro.
Seth said “Those people need money,” and Ian added, “they’re very poor."
“We ask if they are out there and they took a kettle to please bring it back. There are so many people that are hurting out there and they need that money,” said Mike Cuccaro.
Because the Salvation Army is dependent on donations, both officials and volunteers alike are asking if you have an extra buck to put it in the kettle.
If you don’t have cash, don’t worry. Just pull out your smart phone and you can scan on the sign above the kettle and find out how you can donate online.
Or just visit their website to track their progress and find out ways to donate:
Remember any donations help feed, shelter and restore lives in El Paso County. It helps fund programs such as a 24 hour shelter for the homeless, a housing program to help them transition into a stable lifestyle, and even an after school program to help dozens of kids get their life on track.
Right now we’re told investigators believe it’s the same suspect in both cases. Police have a license plate number they hope will lead them to the thief.
If you have any information about the thefts, call Crime Stoppers at 634-STOP.