MILWAUKEE -- Thieves armed with a gun stole two Salvation Army red kettles from the organization's Citadel Worship and Corps Community Center. Now, another organization is stepping up to cover those losses.
Salvation Army officials say the organization has been targeted by criminals before, and kettles have been stolen.
But this was the first armed robbery targeting the Salvation Army.
Salvation Army red kettles are symbols of kindness and holiday giving to benefit the less fortunate.
So whoever it was that stole red kettles at gunpoint last week makes the Grinch look pretty good.
"A terrible event," Salvation Army Major Dan Jennings said.
Jennings says the incident happened last Thursday evening, December 3rd outside the Salvation Army on Villard Avenue.
"Just as they were bringing the kettles in at the end of the night, someone approached the van with a gun and put it in the face of the driver and demanded the kettles, so you can imagine she was absolutely terrified," Jennings said.
Police say the suspect got away with two kettles. Two other suspects were waiting nearby.
It's unclear exactly how much money was taken.
"You know, it could be a couple hundred dollars, could be a thousand dollars. We just never know until we open up that kettle and count those," Jennings said.
"My immediate reaction was just sadness," Nicole Angresano with the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County said.
And thankfully, the Christmas spirit is alive and well among United Way officials.
Officials with the United Way decided to replace the stolen funds with a $500 grant to the Salvation Army of Milwaukee County.
"We let them know that we would immediately direct $500 in support to them, which would cover with a little bit extra, the lost money," Angresano said.
Salvation Army officials say there are new security measures in place, and kettles are no longer being counted at the Villard location.
"Since it's been compromised, we've moved to an off-site location and we'll do the counting there at a much more secure facility," Jennings said.
Salvation Army and United Way officials say they're hopeful the generosity to come this holiday season will be more memorable than this one crime.
No one was hurt in this incident -- though we're told the victim will be receiving counseling.
Milwaukee police are looking for the suspects in this case.
As for the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign this season, officials say they're about a quarter of the way to their $4 million fundraising goal.
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