Every November the community of Turlock gathers to kick off the Salvation Army's holiday fundraising season with a clash of bells and cash. At Tuesday's Kettle Kickoff Luncheon Turlock's generous spirit was once again in full force with over $58,000 raised for the nonprofit organization.
“It brings the community together and is kind of a way to say, ‘Christmas is coming,’” said Major Debi Shrum of the Turlock Salvation Army Corps. “It gets our bell ringers out there and people thinking about other people.”
The highlight of the event was the Kettle Klash, where six teams competed to bring in the most money for the Salvation Army during a 5-minute dash around the Assyrian American Civic Club collecting cash, checks and credit card donations from event attendees.
The Just Plain Nuts team, which included Nick Hackler, Don Wilkey, Dean Doerksen and Dexter Long, collected the most money totaling just under $22,000, followed by the We Can Build It team of Clark Hulbert and Jerry Powell at around $17,000.
The $58,000 total collected on Tuesday exceeded the Army's goal by $8,000 and last year’s total by $20,000.
The money raised at the event goes to educational, recreational and social events that the Salvation Army holds throughout the year.
“It takes a community to be able to do these kinds of things and you are the community, you help us do it,” said Shrum as she addressed the crowd.
One community member in particular was honored at the luncheon, the Salvation Army's Volunteer of the Year Bob McCune.
“He’s just been a fantastic addition to our volunteer staff; he is willing to jump in and do just about anything,” said Shrum. “He enjoys giving back to community and representing God.”
McCune has assisted with those who need help with budgeting, has found donations for new computers at the Salvation Army and leads a Bible study as well.
“The Salvation Army is a wonderful opportunity to volunteer in the community, it’s such a great cause and I’m thankful to be able to give back,” said McCune.
Volunteer event coordinator Kristin Bettencourt said she enjoys the tradition of the Kettle Kickoff.
“While we see so many of the same faces for this event, we also see new faces every year which is exciting because that means more people are supporting the Salvation Army,” she said. “I just love the tradition and that we truly kick off the holiday season with this event and get a lot of people in the spirit.”
There will be more opportunities to give to the Salvation Army this season, including the inaugural Bar Kettle Ringing.
“We are going to set up kettles in front of bars and different restaurants downtown the night before Thanksgiving, which is traditionally one of the busiest nights in Turlock,” said Bettencourt.
From 6 p.m. to midnight there will be kettle bells placed outside of restaurants and bars, hoping to attract the foot traffic that will be passing by.
“Also, Dec. 12 is the Stanislaus County Mayors bell ringing competition,” said Bettencourt. “And we have some new ideas this year to help ensure that our Mayor wins.”
The Salvation Army is also looking for volunteers to ring bells at donation stations at businesses around town. For more information on volunteer opportunities, call 667-6091.