TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - The search is still on for a Salvation Army donation kettle that was stolen from in front of a Tyler Walmart.
Captain Bobby Parker, a commanding officer with The Salvation Army, said the theft occurred Tuesday evening at the Walmart at 450 SSE Loop 323 in Tyler.
Witnesses told authorities a truck pulled up, someone grabbed the stand the kettle was held by, threw it in the back of the truck, and drove off.
“We haven’t recovered the stand or kettle," said Parker.
Parker believes there was around $500 to $600 in donations in the kettle.
Dave Crocker was the bell ringer whose bucket was stolen. He said he had just brought the bucket back outside after taking a break.
“I had just brought it out here and was getting ready to go," Crocker said. ""I was ringing my bell and just talking to customers and all of sudden, a man came up and acted as if he was going to play with me and grab it and run off. And I looked at him, and sure enough he did."
Crocker said the man took off with the kettle, stand and all. He threw it in the back of a pickup truck and sped off. Crocker isn’t sure how many people were inside the vehicle.
“One of our customers was driving by and said, 'Hey! They stole your kettle, I’ll get it.” And he whirled around and took off and followed him."
Police were eventually able to find the suspect’s vehicle. The kettle and money were not recovered.
“So despite all of this that has happened, we know the East Texas Community will rally behind us and help make up that difference that we lost yesterday," said Capt. Nicole Parker with The Salvation Army.
Parker added that theft can be discouraging this time of year, considering the donations raised during the holiday season go toward helping men, women, and children in need all year long.
“We take a lot of care to try to keep our kettles locked up and secure, and they are even locked to the stand itself,” said Parker. “This type of thing doesn’t happen very often, and we are confident that despite this setback, the amazing East Texas community will rally behind us to help us make up the amount that was lost.”
As for Dave Crocker, he was back at the store on Wednesday with a new kettle and his bell in hand.
“No, it wouldn’t keep me from coming back," said Crocker.
There are several days left in the season for volunteers to sign up to be a bell ringer. If you’re interested in registering, please sign up on The Salvation Army Register to Ring website.