The Salvation Army's red kettles aren't as full this year.
Donations for the Modesto area were down $40,000 as of Wednesday compared with last year. Donations also are down in Turlock.
"It's hard to know because some of the bigger days are still to come," said Maj. Darvin Carpenter with the Modesto Citadel Corps, "but I would be surprised if we reached last year's total."
The Salvation Army is not the only nonprofit hoping for last-minute help:
The Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca says demand for Christmas food in Stanislaus County is up 30 percent compared with last year. The nonprofit distributes food to seven counties, including Stanislaus.
"Trying to meet the demand for turkeys and hams in Stanislaus County has been a real struggle," said Second Harvest chief executive Mike Mallory.
The United Samaritans Foundation in Turlock needs candy canes; boneless, precooked hams; canned peas, carrots and sweet potatoes; marshmallows; brown sugar; and Christmas cookies for its Christmas Eve meal.
The nonprofit's four lunch trucks deliver meals Monday through Friday in parks and low-income neighborhoods in several communities, including Modesto. Its lunch trucks will serve 1,500 to 1,800 Christmas Eve meals, said United Samaritans director Barbara Bawanan.
"But people can donate all year round because we are feeding people five days a week," she said.
Salvation Army bell ringers have been out since Nov. 20 with their red kettles at about two dozen locations in Modesto, Ceres and Riverbank. Christmas Eve will be their last day.
The campaign got off to a great start Nov. 19, when The Salvation Army raised a record $227,000 at its annual Kettle Kick-Off fund-raiser at Modesto Centre Plaza.
Carpenter hoped to add to that by raising $200,000 from the bell ringers. They raised about $170,000 last year but are on a pace to bring in much less this year.
He attributed the downturn to the recession and fewer choice locations for bell ringers. He said it hurt to lose Modesto's two Gottschalks and one Mervyns. The department store chains closed in the past year.
The money raised at the Kettle Kick-Off and by the bell ringers will help fund The Salvation Army's Christmas programs and its other services through January.
"Even though many of us have less, those on the bottom have much, much less," Carpenter said about the need to give, adding that his agency also needs Christmas toys.
Donations in Turlock are down about 20 percent compared with last year, said Maj. Debi Shrum with the The Salvation Army's Turlock Corps.
She said Turlock Together and The Salvation Army's Turlock Corps need money for their Christmas Day dinner for 1,000 people.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2316.