While it’s no surprise to see Salvation Army bell ringers outside of stores this time of year, on Saturday Turlock citizens saw their mayor and council members braving the cold to bring a few extra dollars – $459.50 to be exact – to the kettles through a friendly county-wide competition.
This year marks the second annual Mayor's Kettle Challenge, a competition conceived of by Cecilia Michelini of the Modesto Salvation Army as a way to generate funds for the Salvation Army “ to stuff the pots so to speak.”
“I was reading anything I could get my hands on to find a way to make the kettle season even better,” recalled Michelini.
Fast forward two years and Michelini, alongside other regional Salvation Army supporters, has been able to get the mayors of Stanislaus County towns on board to brave the cold to ring bells for two years with Ceres bringing in the most “bang for their bell” for both competitions.
This year Ceres raised $613.48, Modesto raised $497.40, Riverbank raised $486.71, Turlock raised $459.50, and Patterson raised $164.71 in their respective kettles alone.
While the friendly competition is motivating for the local leaders, most would agree helping to provide for those in need this holiday season is the real prize.
“My hands were freezing, but it’s the least I can do,” laughed Turlock City Council Member Matthew Jacob. “It’s Christmas and that’s what it’s all about: giving. It felt great to not only give attention to this cause that does so much for our community, but to see so many kids giving a few dollars here and there too.”
For the past 11 years Linda Martin has coordinated the Turlock bell ringing season which kicks off on Nov. 24 and concludes on Christmas Eve, the proceeds of which are given to programs run at the Salvation Army. While this year is showing a slight improvement over last year as far as overall kettle collections, there is one important element and that’s the weater.
“The weather plays a huge role,” said Martin, noting that on Thursday the storm that swept through Turlock resulted in less than $1,000 collected in funds throughout the entire town.
However, with just over a week of bell ringing remaining, there is still plenty of time for locals to support the Salvation Army by dropping a dollar or two in the iconic red kettles hung in front of stores across town. On Monday students and staff from Turlock High School and Pitman High School are taking a note from the local mayors and will be competing to see who can raise the most funds at two separate locations: THS will post up at Village Fresh Market from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. while PHS will man the Wal-Mart Garden Center entrance from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.