MODESTO -- The Salvation Army's holiday fund raising got off to a strong start this week, bringing in more than $275,000 at Kettle Kickoff luncheons in Modesto and Turlock.
Thursday's annual event at Modesto Centre Plaza raised $184,681. Tuesday's luncheon in Turlock raised $90,526, including $50,000 from an anonymous donor.
The events mark the beginning of holiday fund raising for The Salvation Army. From today through Dec. 24, bell ringers with their distinctive red kettles will accept donations at shopping centers and other locations throughout Modesto.
The Turlock bell ringers start Monday and also will solicit donations through Christmas Eve.
The money from the luncheons and bell ringers pays for Christmas food for families and toys and clothes for their children, as well as The Salvation Army's other programs, such as the homeless shelter near downtown Modesto.
Turlock officials hope to raise $60,000 from their bell ringers; Modesto is aiming for $200,000.
Modesto officials also wanted to raise $200,000 at Thursday's luncheon, but came up nearly $16,000 short of that. But they thanked the more than 1,100 people at the Centre Plaza for their support in ensuring the hungry are fed, the homeless have a warm bed and those who need shirts, coats and pants are clothed.
"I want to thank you," said Capt. Mike Paugh, who oversees the Modesto Citadel Corps, after Thursday's total was announced. "God bless you and Merry Christmas."
Paugh said Thursday's donations included $20,000 from Sutter Health, the parent of Memorial Medical Center in Modesto and the Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.
Paugh added that Wells Fargo Bank donated $5,000 to the Kettle Kickoff and an additional $5,000 to The Salvation Army's Red Shield Center in south Modesto, which offers children a safe place to play, do homework and have a meal.
Though Thursday's $184,681 was less than the $192,648 raised last year, it was in line with the amounts raised at previous Kettle Kickoffs, which is now in its 20th year in Modesto. Tuesday was the 16th time Turlock has held a Kettle Kickoff.
The $90,526 raised Tuesday in Turlock was not a record, but it was several thousand dollars more than last year's total.
"It's very important," said Kathy Wells, the Turlock Corps office manager. "This is our major fund-raiser, and it usually gets us through to next summer."
The Salvation Army also is accepting donations through its virtual kettle at www.onlineredkettle.org.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.