Salvation Army kettle snatched by city thief
MANCHESTER - An estimated $300 in donations was stolen Tuesday night by a thief who grabbed a Salvation Army kettle from outside a city store and ran off.
The robbery outside the Hobby Lobby store in a South Willow Street shopping plaza happened about 7:30 p.m., a half-hour before the store closed.
"He came over and put some change in the kettle, then he unhooked it and ran," said Nicole Tierney, a Salvation Army bell-ringer. "There was a good amount of money in there."
Police immediately set out looking for the thief, described by Tierney as a tall, skinny young man, wearing jeans, a hoodie and a black jacket. The man's face was mostly covered with a cloth mask.
Police said he apparently escaped on a mountain bike.
Stunned, Tierney said she burst into tears as she ran inside the store to ask the manager to call police.
"Some people aren't really thinking what they're doing while they are doing it," Tierney, 26, of Manchester, said, "There's a lot of people that need that money."
After people inside the store realized what happened, a spontaneous collection was taken up that raised a quick $45 to replace some of the stolen funds.
Instead of a kettle, the money was placed in a Hobby Lobby envelope.
Lt. Herb Rader, commanding officer of the Salvation Army of Manchester, responded to the scene after hearing of the robbery.
He said all of the Salvation Army bell ringers, both employees and volunteers, are given training as the Christmas season begins.
"We teach them how to ring and how to be friendly," Rader said. "We also talk about the potential for risk - we want them to be safe."
Tierney was working a 10-hour shift outside the Hobby Lobby. As the store closed, she was still standing outside the store, her bells in one hand, the envelope in the other.
Tierney will be on a regularly scheduled day off today, but plans to return to her post Thursday. The collection outside Hobby Lobby resumes today.
"We'll be here. We don't expect this to happen again," Rader said. "It's not that common. I've never had it happen to me over many, many years."
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Bill Smith may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.