Throughout the holiday season, community organizations trust volunteers to help collect donations for those in need. But as YNN's Kaitlyn Lionti reports, police in Fredonia are now looking for a woman who allegedly violated that trust by making off with a kettle of donations.
FREDONIA, N.Y. -- It's a sign of the season: the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign collects donations around the holidays to support its programs throughout the year. But the location in Dunkirk is now missing donations made last Thursday, after police say a volunteer took a kettle of money from outside this Walmart in Fredonia.
"These kinds of incidents are always difficult ones for anybody, no matter where they are," said Maj. Thomas Applin of the Salvation Army of Buffalo.
Fredonia police say they're looking for a woman named Tamika Hood, who was dropped off by someone with the Salvation Army to volunteer in the afternoon of the 29th.
They say just two and a half hours later, she was gone, and so was the kettle of money.
Police say Hood is a Dunkirk resident, but is currently homeless.
"I don't want to defend what happened in Fredonia, but there are lots of desperate people out there,” said Maj. Applin. “And in desperate times, people do desperate things."
Applin wants the public to know this doesn't happen often. He says it occurs maybe a few times a year across the country, and that the kettles are a safe place to donate.
He says the Salvation Army takes steps to prevent this from happening, such as getting as much information as it can from volunteers, and having employees drive by collection sites.
"Obviously, when you're handling the amounts of money that we're talking about, you have got to be very, very careful and you've got to scrutinize the best you can,” said Maj. Applin. “And everywhere, we're watching very closely."
Applin says many of the stores where they volunteer keep an eye out too, but he says no system is 100 percent fool proof, and this demonstrates the need for dependable volunteers.
"People helping organizations like the Salvation Army are helping others not to get in those desperate situations,” said Maj. Applin.
Fredonia police ask anyone with information on the case to contact them at 716-679-1531.