Ringing from hundreds of little red bells echoed throughout the Larsa Banquet Hall in Turlock Tuesday as some of Turlock’s most giving community members came together for the 23rd annual Salvation Army Kettle Kickoff Luncheon, stuffing funds of all forms 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 various programs, including adult counseling, family grocery support, student tutoring and senior citizen activities. 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 donations as possible.
Tuesday’s Kettle Klash saw seven teams raise $51,570.89, surpassing last year’s total of $47,981. Team “We Can Build It,” consisting of members Jerry Powell and Clark Hulbert, came in first place during the Klash by raising a whopping total of $22,981.25. In second place was team “Just Plain Nuts,” with members Nick Hackler, Dean Doerksen and Dexter Long collecting $13,324. Rounding out the top three were “The Charity Belles,” whose team of Ana Machado, Filomena Sousa, Elaine Tait and Megan Patterson gathered $8,028 in their kettles. Yosemite Farm Bureau also contributed to the cause by donating a $5,000 check to the Salvation Army.
“The Charity Belles” have participated in the Kettle Klash since its inception, Machado said, and are part of the Women’s Auxiliary that raises money for the cause all year long.
“My favorite part about this event is the sense of the holiday season and the joy it brings,” she said. “Being happy about doing it and being appreciative of people dropping in their money is key. People keep pulling out money and pulling out money. Their generosity makes it fun to continue to run and get every last dollar in the room.”
During the event, emcee and Journal editor Kristina Hacker welcomed Lee, Diane and Billy Koken on stage to share how the Salvation Army has impacted their lives. Billy shared how the after-school services provide him with fun extra-curricular activities, while his father Lee and mother Diane explained how the organization helped them get back on their feet and achieve their current sobriety.
“It’s all because someone was there to help us out,” Lee said. “They taught us how to be adults, which sounds silly…but it all started with Major Shrum and the staff there to guide us.”
Turlock Salvation Army Corps Major Debi Shrum is retiring and celebrated her last Kettle Kickoff, and she will soon become a certified dog trainer. The tens of thousands of dollars raised Tuesday were a fitting farewell and will go toward a variety of causes in the coming year.
Over winter, funds raised will provide four days of groceries to over 1,200 families, assist 95 families with Turlock Irrigation District assistance and give 400 senior adults a place to go for fellowship, food and fun. Annually, 15,000 people utilize the Salvation Army’s gymnasium, 10,000 use its food services, 3,000 seniors take advantage of programs geared toward their age bracket and another 3,000 students get help at after-school tutoring.
Starting this week, Salvation Army kettles will be distributed at locations around town, as well as in Denair and Hilmar, where community members can drop spare change, cash or checks. Bell ringers will accompany the kettles, asking for donations every day of the week, except Sunday, through Dec. 24. Locations include the Quick Stop in Denair, Hilmar Lumber, Walgreens in Hilmar, Big Lots, Hobby Lobby, Raley’s, Safeway, both Turlock Save Marts, Village Fresh and both Turlock Wal Marts.
Those interested in volunteering to ring bells during the season can sign up at registertoring.com or by calling the Salvation Army at 667-6091.