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Mayors Kettle Challenge to help make up lost Salvation Army funds
mayors kettle
Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth and team will once again be ringing the bells for the Salvation Army kettle drive. They will be in front of the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on Geer Road in Turlock from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. - photo by Journal file photo

Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth is calling on the community to support a well-deserving cause during this weekend’s fifth annual Salvation Army Mayors Kettle Challenge, which will raise much-needed funds for the nonprofit organization through some friendly competition.

The need is greater than ever this year, said Turlock Corps Major Debi Shrum, after the Salvation Army’s Divisional Headquarters decided that it would no longer help out smaller chapters, such as Turlock, and instead will expect each corps to provide for itself financially.

Turlock Salvation Army was expecting to receive $178,000 from the Divisional Headquarters in 2018 to be used for operating costs. According to Shrum, each Salvation Army center was responsible for its own expenditures during the nonprofit’s early days of operation, and the Divisional Headquarters wanted to revert back to old customs.

However, 2018 is set to be the first year that Turlock Salvation Army does not receive any funding.

“They’re going back to the philosophy that every unit pays for itself,” said Shrum. “Turlock has always gotten a little help from Divisional Headquarters, so we’re just going to have to buck up and raise more money, which I think we can.”

The annual Salvation Army Kettle Kickoff Luncheon took place last month, and raised an unprecedented $63,069 – over $3,000 more than the event’s goal of $60,000 and nearly $6,000 more than last year’s total. The success of the event, which kick starts Salvation Army’s iconic red kettle holiday fundraising campaign, helped the Turlock center immensely, more funds are needed.

The funding received from the Divisional Headquarters in years past has helped pay Turlock Salvation Army’s second officer, Lieutenant Miguel Morales, as well as building maintenance and child safety insurance for the organization’s after school program.

Without increased fundraising efforts, those aspects of the organization will be in danger, said Shrum.

“We may have to take a look at some of the programs we do and maybe do a little less, and we may not be able to go on some of the field trips that we have.”

The biggest blow would be potentially losing Morales, she said.

“We might even have to give up having two officers,” said Shrum. “I put in about 10 hours a day, and if we don’t have that extra officer, my job is going to become a lot harder. Lieutenant Miguel is great and really good with the kids.”

Shrum stated that the organization will know by mid-January if any cuts will need to be made, but added that Turlock Salvation Army is not in danger of shutting down. She hopes that with the community’s help, the holiday bell ringing season will bring in $75,000. To accomplish such a feat, more bell ringing hours need to be added, meaning more community members need to sign up to volunteer at

This year, a donor has also committed to matching every $20 bill placed into Turlock kettles for up to $500.

“This community has always been really good, and when they know we need something but they don’t have the money, they try and give to us however they can,” said Shrum. “I was out for two hours myself last night ringing, so we’re all pitching in. If we can get about 3,000 hours of volunteer bell ringing, we’ll be in good shape.”

Soiseth and his own team of bell-ringing volunteers will face off against Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra in the annual kettle challenge, set for Saturday at Wal-Mart Neighborhood Grocery. Soiseth will be ringing outside of the grocery store from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and City of Turlock officials and employees, along with student volunteers, will be taking donations toward the challenge all day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The last time Turlock won the annual competition was in 2015, and Ceres took home the fundraising crown last year.

“It’s really fun – the mayors get into it,” said Shrum. “It’s an honor to work here because everyone cares, and they work together to head in the same direction, which is serving the community and making it the best we can.”