UPDATE: Police are looking for the man who stole a Salvation Army red kettle full of cash from a bell ringer.

 "We are a little disheartened that somebody would actually steal from the Salvation Army, an organization where our services are given for free," said Kimberly George, Salvation Army Director of Marketing and Development. 

Police say the theft happened Tuesday at a Chattanooga grocery store.

"I've been doing this since 2008," said bell ringer Gladys Ervin. The sixty-six-year-old knows how important these donations are, she says the Salvation Army helped her get back on her feet a few years ago.

Ervin now rings the bell to give back. "I like helping others and basically it helps me too," said Ervin. 

She's never had any problems with customers, until Tuesday when she was ringing her bell outside of the Food City on Lee Highway.  

"He came out and he didn't have no bags, but he went to his billfold like he was fixing to put something in the kettle and reached and grabbed the kettle," said Ervin. 

Gladys took off after the man. 

"It kind of scared me you know I was upset and nervous about it but she didn't want him to get away.
 
"It was all just in my mind, just he's got your kettle go get it," said Ervin. " Go get it and get it back." 

The man then got into the passenger seat of a car that took off. 

Gladys says she worked all day for the 200 dollars the thief took.

"Why are you going to steal from somebody trying to get help when you can go out and do the same thing I'm doing," said Ervin. " Go sign up to ring the bell." 

Ervin admits she was a little discouraged about returning to ring her bell the next day, but she knows there are families depending on her.

"This has been the worst year to me since that happened to me," said Ervin. " I wasn't going to come back out, but I said no I've got to." 

This is the first red kettle theft in the history of Chattanooga's bell ringing campaign.  All of the money collected goes toward the organization's Christmas efforts.

Officials say the red kettles will be visible now through December 23 where folks can continue to donate.  This year some red kettles will have credit card options as well.   

If you have any information that can help investigators, call Chattanooga Police AT 423-698-2525.


PREVIOUS STORY: A Salvation Army red kettle with about $200 dollars in donations inside was stolen in Chattanooga Tuesday.

The kettle was at the Food City near the corner of Lee Highway and Shallowford Road and was stolen about 2:00pm by a man appeared to be donating. The bell ringer said the suspect got his wallet out to donate and then quickly grabbed the red kettle and jumped into the passenger side of a vehicle and sped off.  

According to Captain Nathan Jones, the red kettle probably had close to $200.00 in it. “It hurts my heart that someone would steal from The Salvation Army when we so willingly give assistance for free,” says Captain Jones.

“We will pray for the robber regardless and pray that God will more than make up the money in the other kettles.” 

Kimberly George, the Salvation Army's Director of Marketing, says this is the first time in her 20 years that she can remember a kettle being stolen.

The red kettles will be visible throughout the Tennessee Valley now through December 23 where folks can continue to donate. Some red kettles will have credit card donation options as well.