PHOENIX - Thieves have targeted the red kettles at the Salvation Army Center in Maryvale, stealing donations that would have helped provide food and Christmas gifts for families in need.
The red kettles and bell ringers are a staple of the holiday season, collecting money for vulnerable families who can't normally afford food or presents.
Although the thieves made off with hundreds of dollars in donations, Salvation Army leaders are extending forgiveness to those who were so desperate, they stole from the poor.
Marilu Guzman volunteers her time for the Salvation Army. She was upset to find out the money she helped collect was stolen.
"That's God's house," Guzman said. "You shouldn't be doing that in God's house, you know."
At around 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning, thieves broke into the Salvation Army Phoenix Maryvale Community Center. Two laptops were taken, and several red kettles, which contained nearly $600 in donations, were on the floor emptied.
"You know, we're already down financially, then this happens," said Salvation Army captain Joseph Cisneros. "It does affect us, it starts to weigh on your mind."
Donations have dropped this year compared to last. The Maryvale center has so far only reached 26% of its goal to raise $40,000.
"We forgive those people that did this to us, but it does put us back," Cisneros said. "I pray for them that they find peace wherever they're at."
The Salvation Army is asking for the public's help. Not to catch the criminals, but to raise more money so they can purchase more turkeys, food and toys to hand out this weekend.
Donations to The Salvation Army can be made:
- At any Red Kettle at store fronts across Arizona. If you don’t have cash at the time, NFC tags and QR codes on Red Kettle signs will provide options to make a contactless donation from your mobile device.
- Online at SalvationArmyRedKettle.org
- By texting RedKettles (no spaces) to 51555
- By asking Alexa to, "Make a donation to The Salvation Army."
Help arrives just in time
A toy drive was held on Dec. 19 and kids and families showed up to get a quick to-go meal and pick up some presents for the holidays.
Workers say they won't let anything take away from their joy of giving this holiday after a hard loss – now leading to even bigger blessings.
"It's hard because you work hard for everything you got, and the community depends on us," Cisneros said.
Since then, donors have stepped up, contributing more than $1,600, and one of those donors is also working to provide a replacement laptop.
"I'm grateful for the community, and I am grateful for how they have responded so far," Cisneros said. "We have a lot of the homeless who have shown up here, keeping an eye out. Some people of the homeless have shown up with computers they found in the trash asking if they were ours."
Hundreds of toys were also donated at the event.
The additional funds are helping them to make up a deficit this year. Weeks away from the new year, they've only met 26% of their $40,000 goal.
During the holiday season, they're grateful for all the help they can get.
"It's very gratifying when we are able to meet people's needs, and it brings joy to us because there is more good than bad," Cisneros said.
More Arizona headlines
- 'This is not a recreational drug. This is death': Record 1.7M fentanyl pills seized in Arizona
- 'I feel loved': Phoenix Safeway employee surprised with new bike for Christmas
- Cannabis in Arizona: Over 1,500 applications filed for social equity pot licenses
Tune in to FOX 10 Phoenix for the latest news: