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Modesto, Turlock kettles jingled less merrily this year

Fewer people heeded the call of The Salvation Army's bell ringers.

Red kettle donations this holiday season were down in Modesto and Turlock.

In the Modesto area, bell ringers collected about $145,000 in their kettles compared with $167,000 last year, said Maj. Darvin Carpenter with The Salvation Army's Modesto Citadel Corps.

Donations still were being tallied Monday in Turlock, but Maj. Debi Shrum with the Turlock Corps said this year's kettle collection looks to be less than last year's.

"It's going to be down," she said.

The bell ringers were out with their red kettles from late November through Christmas Eve. The donations help pay for the nonprofit's holiday programs, such as food and Christmas toys for needy families.

Carpenter has attributed the downturn to the recession and fewer choice locations for bell ringers. He said it hurt to lose Modesto's two Gottschalks and Mervyns this year. The department store chains closed in the past year.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that donations to the red kettle campaign were down nationwide, even as demand for services is up.

Carpenter hoped to raise $400,000 from a Nov. 19 fund-raiser in Modesto Centre Plaza that kicks off the red kettle campaign and from the bell ringers.

The fund-raiser brought in a record $227,000, in part because of a $20,000 donation from Memorial Medical Center and Sutter Gould Medical Foundation on behalf of their parent organization, Sutter Health.

This year's overall campaign brought in about $372,000, compared with about $342,000 raised last year.

Turlock's fund-raiser brought in $90,000, about the same amount as last year. Shrum said she had hoped the bell ringers would bring in $69,000 this holiday season, but she expects to fall short of that goal.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine

can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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