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Man arrested in connection with kettle theft
Bell ringer took off with a Salvation Army donations
1207-ernest jackson
Ernest Andrea Jackson

Salvation Army

To contact Gainesville's Salvation Army office with more information or to make donations, call 770-534-7589.


Gainesville police arrested and charged a man they accused of being a bell ringer who took off with a Salvation Army kettle and apron on Friday.

Ernest Andrea Jackson, 41, who also goes by the name Ernest Andrea Mize, was charged with theft by taking after Gainesville officers found him at the Kangaroo Express gas station at College Avenue and E.E. Butler Parkway around 3:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Oakwood police began looking for Jackson on Monday when Salvation Army officials reported the theft. Oakwood Investigator Danny Sridej checked the man's Gainesville residence in the afternoon and evening, but he wasn't there.

"When I interviewed him, he had no comment," Sridej said Tuesday morning. "He said he didn't know what I'm talking about. The apron and kettle are still out there, though, so I hope he doesn't have plans."

A resident saw Jackson at the Walmart in Acworth around 6 p.m. Monday, ringing the bell and collecting more money, officials said. Oakwood investigators are waiting on video footage before possibly filing additional charges.

"I still need to locate the missing items," Sridej said. "I hope someone isn't going to try to use them."

Jackson applied for the job under his mother's maiden name, Mize, officials said. Friday was his first day ringing the bell in front of the Walmart in
Oakwood, and he left the shift around 6 p.m. with the kettle, officials allege.

With Friday as a big day for giving at the Walmart location, Salvation Army officials estimate the bucket probably contained $200-$400 by the time the bell ringer took off in a car. At 40 hours on minimum wage for the next three weeks, a bell ringer likely would have earned about $900.

Officials have notified Salvation Army organizations throughout the metro Atlanta area, Sridej said.

"I've talked to plenty of people around Georgia today, and we're marveling at how rare this is," said Matt Cunningham, Gainesville's Salvation Army director. "We also received a call today from someone who wants to match whatever money was lost, which is fantastic. If someone would like to make a special donation in light of this incident, that would really be appreciated."

Also, the Gainesville organization is still looking for volunteers to hand out clothes and toys to 1,600 children and more than 600 boxes of food to families on Dec. 18.

The group also looks forward to helping more than 3,000 families in 2011 with rent, utilities, food and clothes as increasing numbers of unemployed residents are looking for help, Cunningham said.


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