LAKESIDE, Calif. - A local service club is going above and beyond to help the Salvation Army after thieves stole a red kettle filled with cash.
Volunteers with the El Cajon Lions Club jingled bells outside a Walmart in Lakeside on Sunday as generous shoppers stuffed the red kettle with money.
The donations are especially important to the Salvation Army after thieves stole a kettle outside the Walmart last week, making off with close to $200.
"That's pretty pitiful," said volunteer Jerry Hollingsworth. "I don't think you can get any lower than that."
The money was supposed to go towards providing a Christmas dinner for some 1,300 families in need. Making matters worse, donations are down 7 percent this year compared to last Christmas.
"The theft alone cost us upwards of $800 to $1,000 when we calculate the amount that was in the kettle, the cost of purchasing a new kettle and all the locks we had to buy," said Capt. Terry Masango, who is with the Salvation Army.
Since 10News first aired a story about the theft, numerous people have contacted the charity wanting to help, including the Lions Club.
"I was very grateful because this is what makes this county wonderful," said Masango. "This is what makes humanity great to work with."
In addition to ringing bells, Lions Club members are raising their own donations to replace the money thieves stole from the kettle. They are also working in teams to keep a close watch so the thieves do not strike again.
"Most of the time I have my hand on it, so we're watching it very carefully," a volunteer told 10News. "We don't want to see anybody walk away with it, not on our shift anyway."
With less money to help the needy this year, the charity has added extra shifts for the red kettle campaign and is relying on more generous donors to pitch in.
"We are down but I'm hoping that people can give for the next few days so we can catch up," said Masango.
Since the theft, the Salvation Army has bought 30 to 50 brand new locks for the kettles, hoping to keep thieves away.