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Salvation Army rings in holiday season with annual luncheon
Kettle pic 2
Gabrielle Forrest collects donations for team Dancing with the Turlock Stars Pros during the Kettle Klash competition. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

The generosity of Turlock’s community members was in full force once again Tuesday at the Salvation Army Kettle Kickoff luncheon, with the city’s residents stuffing dollars by the thousands 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 programs including groceries for families, counseling for adults, 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 nine teams raise $57,633 – nearly $8,000 more than this year’s goal of $50,000 and an increase of 30 percent from last year’s total. Kettle Klash teams “We Can Build It” ($15,463), “Just Plain Nuts” ($11,790) and “Nutty Bunch” ($10,589) brought in the most dollars during the chaotic dash around the tables.

“It’s going to be life-saving on the budget,” said Turlock SA Corps Major Debi Shrum of the funds raised at Tuesday’s event.

During the event, Shrum was also presented with a check for $7,500 by Joe Mendoza of Blue Diamond Growers.  

“It means we can help more people,” said Shrum. “It means we can look at maybe having a longer season where we don’t have to worry about more money.”

The event also included a keynote address by guest speaker Matthew Emerzian. After working as a senior vice president for a music marketing firm run by prominent attorney Robert Kardashian and managing promotional projects for some of the largest artists in the world, the Modesto native became encompassed in an unhealthy lifestyle that ultimately led to a life darkened by severe anxiety. Thanks to help from his therapist, Emerzian began focusing on helping others before himself and turned the lifestyle into a book titled “Every Monday Matters – 52 Ways to Make a Difference.”

“They say that you have to learn to love yourself before you can love others, but sometimes, loving others before yourself can help you love yourself in ways you never knew you could,” said Emerzian, who called on the crowd to donate as much as they could to the Salvation Army’s cause.

As of next week, Salvation Army kettles will be distributed at locations around town. 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.