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Ringing in season of giving
Long-time anonymous donor revealed as Jane Vilas
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Jerry Powell of the 'We Can Build It' Kettle Klash team collects donations for the Salvation Army during Tuesday's Kettle Kickoff Luncheon held at the Assyrian American Civic Hall. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

The only thing made more apparent than the Salvation Army's love of bells at the 18th annual Kettle Kick-Off Luncheon was the generosity of the community as they donated over $46,000 for the local Salvation Army Corps.

The money raised at this year's event — mainly collected during the five minute Kettle Klash that saw volunteer teams race around the crowded luncheon looking for donations —surpassed last year's total by over $11,000.

The Kettle Klash team that raised the most money this year was 'Just Plain Nuts,' made up of Nick Hackler, Jack Wilkey, Dean Doerksen and Dexter Long, who brought in $12,600. The 'We Can Build It' team of Clark Hulbert and Jerry Powell came in a close second with $12,120 in donations, followed by the 'Bucket Brigade' — Jim Madsen, Mary Jackson, Dennis Doo and Abe Rojas — with $7,019.

“This is a wonderful event and we are fortunate to have the Salvation Army in Turlock,” said Mayor John Lazar. “It is nice to see the community come together to raise money for those in need. Not only does this event kick off the Christmas season, but it also makes the holiday time brighter for a lot of people who are not in as good condition as the rest of us.”

The funds raised at Tuesday's lunch will provide a number of benefits for families in need, including four days of groceries to 1,000 families,  networking and counseling for 500 families, and a place to go for worship and fellowship for 1,000 senior adults.

In years past, the announcement of funds collected in the Kettle Klash would be followed by the noting of a contribution of $50,000 made to the Salvation Army by an anonymous donor.  After 14 years of silent generosity, Jane Vilas was recognized by Salvation Army Major Debi Shrum. Vilas passed this year.

“For the last 14 years, we’ve had the very kind gift of $50,000 and the person would never let me tell who she was, but she’s with God now,” said Shrum. “It was wonderful to have the $50,000, but Jane was such a special lady and I’m going to miss her.”

Vilas has still found a way to donate posthumously by including in her will an endowment for the Salvation Army.

The community will have more opportunities to support the Salvation Army as kettles will be distributed to the front of grocery stores next week and to all locations on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Bell ringers will accompany the kettles asking for donations every day of the week, except Sunday, through Dec. 24. Those interested in volunteering to ring bells during the season can contact the Salvation Army at 667-6091.