By Marlee Ginter

PLACERVILLE (CBS13) — If you called it a cold-hearted crime and you wouldn’t be the only one. The Salvation Army is now warning people before they make a donation after someone stole their kettles in El Dorado County. They’re worried the thief is now scamming people to collect donations for themselves.

Dan Ross has volunteered with the Salvation Army for 7 years. He’s proud to ring the bell and wish everyone a Merry Christmas as he stands next to that signature Salvation Army Red Kettle outside Walmart. But Friday morning no bell could be heard after someone stole the kettles, the stands, and even the bells and aprons at Walmart off Missouri Flat Road in Placerville. Volunteers had stored the equipment behind a counter and in a hallway until they returned.

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“I can’t picture the mindset of somebody that’s doing that,” said Ross.

“That’s some cold-blooded stuff man. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I did such a thing,” said James Strauser.

“I think that’s messed up. Not a lot of people can afford stuff during the holiday season and it’s sad,” said Isabel Aldaz.

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They estimate the thefts amount to 10% of their holiday goal.  The equipment adds up to $500 and volunteers collect up to $1,000 a day at the location, but they weren’t able to collect.

Regular donor Julie Eitel was heartbroken to hear.

“That’s pretty sad. That’s a really sad commentary.  That someone’s that desperate,” said Eitel.

“If it’s because you need the help yourself, give us a call. We’ve got people who can help.  So, turn around and do the right thing,” said Ross.

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The Salvation Army says they’re only set up at three locations in El Dorado County: Walmart off Missouri Flat Road in Placerville, Raleys on Placerville Drive in Placerville, and Bel Air on Palmer Drive in Cameron Park. They’re urging anyone who sees someone collecting donations with a red kettle in any other location or other than on Fridays and Saturdays to report it to the police. This comes as they’re already down on donations during the pandemic and only have enough red kettle volunteers to help on Fridays and Saturdays.