WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- (UPDATED) Police in Winston-Salem are looking for the person who stole a Salvation Army red kettle at Hanes Mall.
According to the Salvation Army, the kettle was stolen Tuesday afternoon while a volunteer bell-ringer was opening the door for a disabled shopper.
Despite the incident, James Griffin was back at his usual location Wednesday morning urging shoppers to donate.
"I'm going to continue to smile; I'm going to continue to be happy, to give back. This is how I give back,' said the volunteer bell-ringer.
Griffin says each time he rings the Salvation Army Bell he knows he's ringing it for the 24,000children and their families who need help in Forsyth County this holiday season.
"So, to know that I'm ringing this bell out here every day in the cold, trying to get donations and someone would steal it, take it, it hurts," he added.
For two years now, Griffin has stationed himself in the same spot around this time of year; spending 12 hour days, several days a week - rain or shine - in front of the Belk Store at Hanes Mall.
"We've dubbed him the king of Belk because he has raised the most money of anyone at this location last year. This is his favorite spot and the way he does it is by being so courteous and kind to the customers," said Major James Allison, the area commander for the Winston-Salem chapter.
Allison says it was that courteous and kind attitude that made Griffin a victim Wednesday just before 3:30 in the afternoon.
"I was manning this door right here and it was kind of slow here so I saw an elderly woman get out of a car with a walker, and she had about four grandkids with her," Griffin explained.
"I opened the first set of double doors for her, I opened the second set of double doors and by the time I made sure she was safe and secure within Belk, I come back out, the kettle is gone."
Allison says the incident was surprising since in his 30-plus years as with the Salvation Army no one has stolen from his volunteers in any area. "We could not believe that someone would take from others when the Salvation Army would have helped them if they had just asked us," he said.
Griffin adds that, the incident was just "a bump in the road, of course, but like I said, God will have his increase. God's work is not going to stop." Griffin says he doesn't know how much was stolen along with the kettle; and at this time police say they don't have a suspect.
According to an officer with the Winston-Salem Police Department, there are surveillance cameras at the corners of the building but none captured any clues.
In the meantime, if you'd like to help the Salvation Army reach it's $400,000 goal this year, you can call: 336-462-0793