The Turlock community is known for its tendency to give back to nonprofits in big ways, whether it’s by supporting the city’s “stars” as they sashay on stage or through dashing around an event center with a red kettle in their hand. This year, however, there haven’t been many opportunities for Turlock’s most generous residents to contribute to worthy causes — and local organizations are hurting because of it.
The coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to many fundraisers this year, and quite a few are typically scheduled for the fall and winter months. The Turlock Salvation Army has already lost out on funds they would have received from their August event Moonlight and Margaritas and the September spectacle Dancing with the Turlock Stars, both of which were cancelled, and is now hoping the community will support the new drive-thru format of its annual Kettle Kickoff Luncheon.
According to Turlock Salvation Army Captain Jeffrey Breazeale, the nonprofit that provides services for those in need has lost about $80,000 in revenue this year due to the cancellation of its most significant fundraisers. This year, the organization is campaigning to “Rescue Christmas” and raise $100,000 through the Kettle Klash.
While teams typically would race around the annual luncheon grabbing donations to stuff in their kettles, which saw them raise just under $52,000 last year, this year they will go out into the community and will have until Christmas to collect as many donations as possible.
Turlockers and others from surrounding communities will also have the chance to support the Army by purchasing a Thanksgiving-style dinner from the drive-thru event, scheduled for Nov. 7 and catered by Neto’s.
“In the midst of all of the chaos and confusion caused by this pandemic, there is still a great need in our community and we are doing everything we can to support that need, whether it’s food insecurity, housing insecurity or job loss — the need never ends,” Breazeale said. “We know we have an amazing community that is wanting and willing to support us in meeting the needs of our community, and we want to encourage people to help us rescue Christmas.”
While the Army’s infamous red kettles will still be placed around town for people to drop their spare change into, additional efforts are being made this year to encourage people to donate. Special QR codes that community members can scan with their phones will also be placed in locations around town, which will take them directly to the Army’s donation site.
“These are just a bunch of little things we’re doing to try and think outside of the box and raise money to continue to provide these important services,” Breazeale said.
According to Kristin Bettencourt, who serves on The Salvation Army Board and is chair of the Kettle Kickoff Luncheon, the national Army headquarters places so much faith in Turlock’s fundraising capabilities that they tend to give the organization less money from their general fund each year. She hopes that the community will support the upcoming drive-thru luncheon.
“While we can’t do it the same way we have in the past, our community has completely embraced organizations’ way of doing things during COVID,” Bettencourt said.
Bettencourt is also the President of the DWTTS Board and said the annual event usually pulls in between $60,000 to $65,000 for the Turlock Salvation Army. Last year, $59,000 was gifted to each of three charities: Turlock Salvation Army, Jessica’s House and Covenant Care at Home. With the cancellation of the event this year, Bettencourt said the Board plans to release footage from years past and promote donations to the nonprofits.
“I don’t know how else to describe cancelling the event other than heartbreaking. It’s just become such a big event in our community and a big part of our lives every summer — and it brings in a ton of money,” Bettencourt said. “We held on to some hope because we start planning so early, but as a Board we watched other events cancel one by one so we saw the writing on the wall.”
Jessica’s House, which offers support for grieving children and families, lost out on not only funds from DWTTS this year, but also the annual Festival of Trees gala and their annual golf tournament. The December gala also raises funds for local hospice services.
According to Jessica’s House Executive Director and Founder Erin Nelson, the organization is very dependent on the three fundraisers, which combine to raise money for about 25 percent of the annual program budget. Now, they are also thinking outside of the box to raise more funds.
“We are looking for ideas for successful virtual fundraising as well as developing our direct appeal mailing which will go out in November. This gives donors an opportunity to sponsor a grieving child in our program,” Nelson said. “We are hoping for a generous response to our direct appeal mailer this November as well as donations on Giving Tuesday in December. But what helps us the most are ongoing donations to sponsor a grieving child or regular monthly donations that help sustain our grief support program for families.”
For those who would like to give to Jessica’s House, visit www.jessicashouse.org/donate. Community members can also donate to Covenant Care at Home by visiting https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/CovenantLiving/OnlineDonation.html and selecting the Turlock campus.
Tickets for the Turlock Salvation Army’s drive-thru Kettle Kickoff Luncheon can be purchased for $20 per plate or $75 for a family of four at www.turlock.salvationarmy.org by clicking “Events.” Community members can also sponsor a kettle for $500, sponsor the lunch for $1,000 or sponsor the event for $1,500. For more information, contact Beverly Spielman at email@example.com.