GULFPORT - It is a story that tugged at the heart strings of many of our viewers. A Salvation Army bell ringer was pushed and the kettle was stolen. Michelle Pope opened up to WLOX News about the incident.
"I'm doing it for a reason. This man stole from charity. He took from the needy people that's in need and that type of stuff, and that really messed with me," said Pope.
One week after the interview, Pope is behind bars, charged with petit larceny and false reporting of a crime. Gulfport police believe Pope actually helped orchestrate the crime, and that is not sitting well with Pope's fellow bell ringers.
"It bothers me, because I am doing this for Christmas for my kids," Monica Whipple said with tears rolling down her face. "It's really upsetting. I did this last year, and they helped me out a lot. They do help a lot of people, and I don't understand why anyone would do this."
Whipple has been ringing The Salvation Army bell for the past three holiday seasons. She said The Salvation Army and Maj. Gary Sturdivant have been a big blessing to her family.
"He says every morning, he says a big speech about that if we ever need anything to come to him personal, on the side, and he will try his hardest to help whatever he can do," Whipple said.
"We just need to continue to lift her up in prayer," Sturdivant said. "Because she's got some issues, and we need to pray for her. The Salvation Army is all about forgiveness and second chances, so I feel sorry for that individual as well that she felt like she had to do that."
Leaders with The Salvation Army said they do perform background checks on the majority of their employees, but because they only work for five weeks a year, not all of them get checked.
"We are going to continue to make a difference in people's lives," Sturdivant said. "We are not going to allow this lady to steal our joy. It's not going to happen."
According to the Harrison County Jail Docket, this is not Michelle Pope's first run in with the law.
She was arrested in 2012 and 2013 for providing false information. Also, the D'Iberville Police Department currently has a warrant out for Pope for petit larceny.