SAN DIEGO - A Salvation Army kettle was stolen at a La Jolla grocery store in an unusual manner.
Local Salvation Army officials say the Red Kettle theft happened Dec. 10 at a Vons store on Girard Ave. Officials say a Salvation Army bell ringer was greeting another person when the man -- who witnesses say appeared to be homeless -- unhooked the kettle and drove off with it in a golf cart.
A description of the man was not immediately provided.
After a police report was filed, the broken and empty Red Kettle was discovered at an undisclosed location and eventually returned to the Salvation Army.
The theft comes at a time when Salvation Army officials say Red Kettle donations are down 12 percent from 2015.
Major George Baker, the divisional commander of the Salvation Army, said, "We need Red Kettle donations to help people all year long. Right now we need donations to bring the miracle of Christmas to those who are hungry, those who have lost their jobs, those who hope to give their children at least one toy on Christmas morning. But when Christmas is over, those people still face hunger, job loss, discouragement and we desperately want to help them all year long."
Officials say: "The Salvation Army in San Diego County still needs to raise $365,000 in Red Kettle donations to reach its $835,000 goal. The Red Kettle Campaign ends on Christmas Eve, December 24, which means there is only one week to raise these funds.
If The Salvation Army's goal is not raised, the organization will not be able to help as many families in 2017. Salvation Army officers worry that without meeting their goal, vital programs in San Diego County will suffer."
Anyone who wishes to help the local Salvation Army can contribute coins, dollars or checks to Red Kettles around the county.
The local Salvation Army also takes donations online at http://www.sandiego.salvationarmy.org/.