GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — A man robbed a Salvation Army bell ringer and ran off with her kettle full of cash just as she was finishing her shift and thanking donors outside a grocery store, according to police accounts and surveillance video.
Michelle Pope said the man pushed her back and grabbed the kettle before she could react.
"Next thing I know, my kettle is running down the road. I tried to chase him down," she said. "He was just too fast.
"He really needs to return that bucket, and he really needs to apologize," Pope told WLOX-TV in Biloxi (http://bit.ly/1GojQHw).
The Tuesday incident was caught on video outside a Winn Dixie in Gulfport.
The video shows the man coming up on the side of Pope and running away. Another camera shows him walking up, wearing a red cap, a blue jacket, jeans and black shoes.
Pope said it was her first holiday season ringing for the Salvation Army. She said she did it to make some extra cash — Salvation Army Maj. Gary Sturdivant said the organization has been hiring bell ringers at minimum wage because of a lack of volunteers.
"Ringing a bell was a way for me to make a little money to give my kids the Christmas they deserve," Pope said.
At the end of a shift, a normal bell-ringer gathers $150 to $300 in donations, Sturdivant told The Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/1GokdSy). In his 30 years at the Salvation Army, he added, he has never had a kettle stolen.
"The saddest part is if the guy was that needy, he could have just come down to our center," Sturdivant said.