The Larsa Banquet Hall in Turlock was alive with the sounds of bells on Tuesday as some of Turlock’s most generous community members gathered for the annual Salvation Army Kettle Kickoff Luncheon, stuffing dollars, coins and checks 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, which include counseling for adults, grocery support for families, tutoring for children and activities for senior citizens. 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 cash donations as possible.
Tuesday’s Kettle Klash saw six teams raise $47,981, with the top two teams that collected the most cash separated by just over $700. Team “Just Plain Nuts,” consisting of members Nick Hackler, Dean Doerksen, John Arellano, Jack Wilkey and Don Wilkey, came in first place during the Klash, raising $15,840. In second place was team “We Can Build It,” with members Jerry Powell and Clark Hulbert collecting $15,103. Also participating in the Kettle Klash were teams from the Turlock Noon Rotary Club and Stanislaus State Scholars, as well as the “Promotoras” and “The Charity Belles.”
“Turlock isn’t like other towns. When we get blessed, we share it with each other,” Turlock SA Corps Major Debi Shrum said. “Turlock is our church…when we work together it’s a wonderful thing.”
During the event, emcee and Journal editor Kristina Hacker shared the story of her great grandmother, Valborg Sundborg Johanson, who was a lifelong Salvationist and heroine of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and also welcomed several guests onto the stage to talk about the impact that the Salvation Army has had on their life.
First up was eight-year-old Aliya Padilla, a Medeiros Elementary School student who said the day camp at the Salvation Army’s Vacation Bible School gave her the chance to learn about God, create different arts and crafts projects and play games.
“It was really fun to experience,” Padilla said. “I liked whenever we got to do free time and got to play games. We got to spend time with our friends and new friends that we made.
“I learned that it’s good to be nice to people and I know I already know that, but it’s just good to know again.”
Also sharing their stories were Shania Hefley, a day camp coordinator, and Melissa Akin, who turned to creating beautiful works of art on recyclables like cardboard during her time living on the streets, using it as a form of therapy. Today, Akin is no longer homeless and thanked both the Salvation Army and Shrum for helping turn her life around.
“My connection with the Salvation Army goes pretty deep because Major Shrum, if it weren’t for her…she’s my lifeline who’s gotten me through some of the hardest times of my life,” Akin said. “It’s so hard to lose yourself when you’re on the streets…but I am off the streets and I’ve regained who I used to be.”
Starting Friday, 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.