The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the theft of a Salvation Army kettle from a grocery store parking lot on Christmas Eve.
The theft took place near a King Soopers location at County Line Road and Holly Street.
“The bellringer, a volunteer of 15 years and several customers ran after the perp but at the end [they] were not successful in retrieving the kettle,” said Salvation Army spokesperson Tahreem Pasha-Glenn.
Bell ringer Phil Rey said he's disappointed by the theft.
"It's my one thing that I do to really, really try to give back. And to have this taken away, to end this way is just heart-wrenching. Just incredibly sad," said Rey. "I'm sad, I'm disappointed, I wish I could have done something to prevent it."
At this point, it’s not clear how much money was inside – but Rey said as much as $1,000 could have been in the kettle -- donations that could have been used to help people in need.
"That's the tragedy. They could have taken that money and really helped a lot of people that really needed the help. So disappointing, really disappointing."
The crime happened at a time when the Salvation Army is struggling to get donations.
An official with the Salvation Army told Denver7 donations to the 125th Annual Red Kettle Campaign are down an estimated $140,000 in metro Denver from last year.
“We are always saddened by the theft of one of our kettles. The funds otherwise would have gone to help an individual or family in need in our community.” said Lt. Col. Daniel Starrett. “But I am positive that the kindness of this community and of partners like King Soopers will be more memorable than this one crime.
An official with the Sheriff’s Office said no one was injured.
The kettle gifts remain local and are used for everything from meals to Christmas toys.
A spokesperson with King Soopers told Denver7 reporter Marc Stewart that the store will match the donation to help out the organization.