Published: Nov 17, 2011 12:29 AM EST
Updated: Nov 17, 2011 12:35 AM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- It's that time of year again. Starting Thursday, the Lee County Salvation Army rolls out its Red Kettle Campaign.

But this year, you won't just find bell ringers outside grocery stores. The charity is now hiring security guards to make sure donations stay where they belong.

Believe it or not, the Lee County Chapter says hiring guards is essential in protecting volunteers and cash-filled kettles, scattered across 60-plus locations.

"The last thing we want to happen is to not have measures in place and then for something to happen," Merrilu Bennett of the Lee County Salvation Army said.

The decision comes after two Southwest Florida charities were burglarized.

Two of Harry Chapin's delivery trucks were recently stolen. The suspects are seen in surveillance tape fleeing the food bank's parking lot overnight. Just weeks ago, the Salvation Army of Charlotte County was also hit. A man was caught was on a surveillance camera taking off with hundreds of dollars in donated items.

"It is bad that we have to get to that point. It is really ridiculous, but that's signs of the times we're living in. A lot of people are struggling," Caleb Prieto of the Charlotte County Salvation Army said.

Their chapter's kettle campaign kicked off last week, without security...all hoping that a familiar jingle, will be enough to protect holiday cheer.

"We have so many people out there that need our help, that aren't resorting to these measures. Those are really the people we have to think of," Bennett said.

The Lee County Salvation Army is releasing very few details on the number of security guards they're hiring and where they'll be stationed.
They also won't disclose whether or not the security guards will be armed.