SAVANNAH, Ga.-- Detectives with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department are working to identify a man who stole a Salvation Army Red Kettle from a donation area outside Kroger on Mall Boulevard Tuesday.
"I was saddened by it," said Linda James, business administrator for the Salvation Army. "It's a shame when you're out there trying to help others, and then somebody else wants to take something that belongs to others."
Officers responded to Kroger around 8 p.m. on Nov. 14 for reports of a robbery by snatching. Upon arrival, they learned an unknown black man grabbed the the Salvation Army Red Kettle while bell ringer Leroy Pennamon was looking the opposite direction.
"Turned my head for a split second to greet the people that were coming in and out of the door on the right - a split second - and when I turned my head back toward the kettle, it was gone," said Pennamon, who's volunteered as a bell ringer for three years.
Pennamon said the kettle was full when it was stolen, and he estimates several hundred dollars in cash was inside.
"It's a shame that someone would stoop so low to steal from this organization," he said. "It makes me feel very sad and very angry. You reap what you sow."
Police said several witnesses attempted to chase the thief, but said they lost sight of him near Fox and Weeks Funeral Home.
"We would like to say we appreciate that, but also safety is the most concern we have for anybody," James said. "But it's nice to see that those are heroes out there that would take up for us and make sure that their looking out for us as well."
James said this is the Salvation Army's biggest fundraiser of the year and supports the programs it hosts throughout the year. The money raised helps give toys and food to more than 4,000 children and 1,600 families, and helps house and feed hundreds who stay in the shelter throughout the year.
"Coming off the heels of Matthew and Irma, knowing the need that's in this community, it does make you a little upset when you've got so much to do," James said. "We are dependent upon the support of our community, and we house up to 132 in our shelter a night and provide those meals for those individuals on a daily basis. The Christmas program is not the only thing we do, and the funds that we raise at Christmas, again, sustain our programs throughout the year."
James said her main concern after the theft was Pennamon's safety, and his was the money raised and lost.
"I want to replace what was stolen," Pennamon said. "I want to show the people you cannot stop God's giving."
The Salvation Army hopes to raise $250,000 through the kettle campaign this year. There are 18 red kettle donation stations now, and James said they'll have a total of 42 after Thanksgiving.
Police described the thief as a bearded black man, possibly in his early 20s, with an average to stocky build. He's about 5'6 and was wearing a camouflage jacket, red pants, white socks and black slides during the robbery.
Police are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the SCMPD tip line by dialing (912) 525-3124. Information may also be forwarded to CrimeStoppers at (912) 234-2020. Tipsters remain anonymous and may qualify for a cash reward.