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Kettle Kickoff rings in the season
Kettle Kickoff pic1
Seven Kettle Klash teams line up with their signs to grab their kettles and ask for donations during the 17th annual Salvation Army Kettle Kickoff luncheon.

The Salvation Army Kettle Kickoff luncheon is a yearly testament to the community-driven compassion Turlock residents possess, evident by the thousands of dollars donated in a matter of minutes to help serve the underprivileged in the area. The Kettle Kickoff is centered on the Kettle Klash —seven minutes of organized chaos as volunteer teams race around the room with Salvation Army kettles aiming to collect as many cash donations as possible to kick off the Salvation Army's holiday fundraising campaign.

The Kettle Kickoff is the Salvation Army’s largest event each year and fortifies the organization for months with funds mainly going towards the Army’s winter relief efforts including groceries for families, counseling for adults, tutoring for children, and activities for senior citizens.

The luncheon raised almost $30,000 on Tuesday — $20,000 shy of this year's goal and $10,000 less than 2012 — with Kettle Klash teams "We Can Build It," "Just Plain Nuts," and "The Bucket Brigade" bringing in the most dollars. As in years past, the Salvation Army was endowed with an anonymous $50,000 donation, bringing the total to almost $80,000.

“We’re very grateful for this donation, but we do not count it when we set fundraising goals. We raised a little more than half of what we need, so we’re looking to compensate for that amount by the kettle ringing,” said Turlock SA Corps Major Debi Shrum.

The event included musical presentations by local students Leilani Maunakea, Sierra Perez, and Melissa Castillo, as well as a keynote address by Dave and Christine Long of Hilltop Ranch in Ballico. The Longs' experience of coming to the Central Valley to found Hilltop without any prior farming knowledge served as an inspirational story to showcase that success is possible despite the odds, and the Salvation Army is hoping to motivate citizens to continue to help them accomplish their giving goals.

Kettles will be distributed to the front of grocery stores next week and to all locations on the Friday after Thanksgiving. 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.

“We hope to have a wonderful, lucrative bell ringing season,” said Kettle Kickoff Chair Kristin Bettencourt.