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Thieves take Salvation Army cash, safe, donation kettles

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (AP) _ A holiday grinch hit the Salvation Army in Bartlesville, taking about $250 in cash, a safe and the group's familiar red kettles.

Salvation Army officials discovered the burglary early Wednesday in their offices where thieves damaged windows and a door, stole the cash and kettles and helped themselves to leftovers in the kitchen.

The theft is a setback in a year in which the community's giving level is already thousands of dollars behind estimated needs, officials said.

``Thank the Lord for insurance, so we probably won't lose everything, except for our deductible,'' said Maj. Rick Raymer. ``We are already behind this year. Our kettles are behind and our mail drive is behind. But I know God is going to take care of us, and I know this community will take care of us. They always have.''

This year's kettle drive is $4,000 behind the organization's goal, and the mailing campaign is $15,000 behind, Raymer said.

The safe snatched by the burglars contained the organization's credit cards and numerous blank Salvation Army checks.

Bartlesville police are recommending that area businesses verify all Salvation Army checks they receive to ensure that they are legitimate.

Raymer said the Bartlesville branch of The Salvation Army, which serves Washington and Osage counties, provides vouchers rather than checks for its clients.

Fortunately, Salvation Army officials made two bank deposits the day before the burglary.

Raymer said police think the burglars knew their way around the building and were able to navigate right toward the business office.

Fingerprints recovered show that at least three people were involved, he said.

``They kicked the door open and went straight for the safe, and they took the whole thing,'' Raymer said. ``When I bought the safe, it never occurred to me to have it bolted down.''

The Salvation Army's Christmas giving program helps 2,000 families in the two northeastern Oklahoma counties this year. The organization is providing food, clothing and toys to 627 families who likely will not have any other Christmas presents.

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