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Kettle Kickoff rings in holiday season
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Turlock business owner Jerry Powell collects money for his team, We Can Build It, during the Kettle Kickoffs Kettle Klash. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

Some of Turlock’s most generous community members packed into the Assyrian American Civic Club on Tuesday morning for the annual Salvation Army Kettle Kickoff Luncheon, stuffing dollars, coins and checks into the organization’s iconic red kettles to kick start their holiday fundraising campaign.

The Kettle Kickoff is the Salvation Army’s largest event each year and raises funds that will support the organization’s programs including groceries for families, counseling for adults, tutoring for children and activities for senior citizens. A majority of funds raised come thanks to the event’s Kettle Klash – a five-minute hectic scramble of volunteer teams racing around the room with Salvation Army kettles aiming to collect as many cash donations as possible.

Tuesday’s Kettle Klash saw 11 teams raise $63,069 – over $3,000 more than this year’s goal of $60,000 and nearly $6,000 more than last year’s total. The top two teams that collected the most cash were separated by only $10, with Kettle Klash teams “We Can Build It” ($16,262) and “Just Plain Nuts” ($16,252) coming in first and second, respectively, and “The Charity Belles” ($10,589) rounding out the top three teams from the chaotic dash around the tables.

“It’s so much money that I’m not even sure how many people it’s going to help, but this year we’ve got to buy toys for Turlock Together, so we can afford to do that now. I’m just completely blown away,” said Turlock SA Corps Major Debi Shrum.

During the event, Turlock Unified School District presented Shrum with a check for $4,040, which was raised through coin drives at the elementary sites throughout the district and a halftime kettle dash by high school students through the bleachers at this year’s Harvest Bowl.

“I think people in this community like to help, and they know there’s a certain number we need, they get it done,” said Shrum.

The event also included a keynote address by Turlock Chief of Police Nino Amirfar, who emphasized the importance of community during the holidays.

“I think we can all look back on our history and find those times where we find ourselves in a predicament, or in an area where we need some help, and it sure is wonderful that the Salvation Army is available for those individuals who need help at certain points in their lives. And it is wonderful that we as a community come together to support our family, friends and those that we know,” said Amirfar. “The only difference between you and a police officer is that they are getting paid to do those things.”

Amirfar shared with the crowd that the Turlock Police Department decreased crimes by eight percent last year, and an additional five percent so far this year. Similarly, the Turlock community has helped to decrease the number of those going without help this holiday season.

“Today we come together a as powerful group that can change the lives of many,” he said.

As of next week, Salvation Army kettles will be distributed at locations around town. Bell ringers will accompany the kettles asking for donations every day of the week, except Sunday, through Dec. 24. Those interested in volunteering to ring bells during the season can contact the Salvation Army at 667-6091.