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Salvation Army challenge gets elementary students in the giving mood
bell ringing pic
Brown Elementary School second grader Lindsey Sherman and Principal Nicole Aviles make a donation during the Salvation Armys Spare Change Challenge on Friday.

Elementary students throughout Turlock emptied their pockets Friday to help the Salvation Army raise money and awareness with the nonprofit’s first ever Spare Change Challenge.


“We were thinking of different ways to promote bell ringing because last year we weren’t getting volunteers,” said volunteer Elaine Tait. “It’s a great way to help the community and it teaches the children about the community and about need. We’re all in this together.”


Every classroom at every elementary school site in Turlock was given a little red kettle or can Monday to fill with spare change, and many students were given a parent newsletter explaining the challenge to take home on Tuesday. Tait and fellow volunteer Sandra Blair went to the school sites, one of which was Brown Elementary School, Friday to pick up donations.


“Students came today with bags of coins and they were excited to have the kettles in their classroom because they were able to connect them with the bell ringing,” said Brown Elementary Principal Nicole Avila.


Tait said that since it is the challenge’s first year, the Salvation Army did not have a specific monetary goal, but she said that if every student brought just one quarter Friday, the nonprofit would have received $2,500. However, the biggest benefit of Friday’s Spare Change Challenge was the increased awareness about the Salvation Army’s bell-ringing efforts.


“We have seen an increase from last year,  probably about 50 to 60 percent more volunteers,” said Tait. “We want to put people back in the community.”


Tait and Blair will count all the spare change this weekend, with hopes to reveal which elementary school class raised the most money on Monday or Tuesday. The winning class will get a pizza party.


Blair also attended the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday to challenge trustees to sign up to ring bells on Dec. 3, which the Salvation Army dedicated as “Educator Day.” On this day, the nonprofit is inviting all principals, staff members and teachers to sign up for bell-ringing sessions.


“As an educator I know how important it is to give back to our community and how important it is for our community to see how our schools are doing,” said Blair. “We want to see you out there ringing a bell even if it’s just for a half hour or for an hour. We would just like to have the community see you out in the community helping the community out.”