Salvation Army recently celebrated its 2023-24 Red Kettle Kick Off.

Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko delivered the keynote address.

by Sheli Ellsworth

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Who is the largest non-governmental provider of social services in the world? Goodwill? United Way? UNICEF? Nope. It is The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army recently celebrated its 2023-24 Red Kettle Kick Off. Since 1891, red kettles have been collecting donations that make the world a better place. “Bell ringing is our biggest fundraiser. One hundred percent of these funds go directly to services,” according to Captain Patricia Torres.

Ventura’s Kick Off luncheon was organized by Maya Zumaya who brought community leaders and volunteers together for food, inspiration and a chuckle or two. Moderated by Food Share’s witty Chief Development Officer, Jennifer Caldwell, the crowd heard inspirational stories by those who have received help from the Salvation Army and those who have witnessed that assistance in action. Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko delivered the keynote address.

Nasarenko’s collaboration with the Family Justice Center and the Salvation Army sponsors victims (7-17 years old) of abuse and other crimes to summer camp at The Salvation Army’s Camp Daly in Malibu. The weeklong session called Camp Hope offers counseling, mentoring, cognitive behavior therapy and–like any summer camp for kids–fun for all. “How many of us here can remember that summer camp experience that was so transformative that it illuminated the rest of our lives.” The Salvation Army sends up to 60 children from Ventura County to summer camp every year.

Nasarenko was quick to acknowledge the dedication of Ventura’s outstanding local Salvation Army Captains Juan and Patricia Torres for their dedication and willingness to sponsor local youth to Camp Hope.

Photography artwork on canvas donated by Darlene Roker.

Eighteen years ago, the Torreses were living in LA. Patricia Torres worked as an administrative assistant and Juan was in the travel industry. “God called me to do something bigger than myself,” Patricia Torres says. “The next thing you know, we were in San Luis Obispo working for the Salvation Army.

Fundraising at the luncheon included a raffle organized and sponsored by Cathy and Tim Mayeda and photography artwork on canvas donated by Darlene Roker.

The Salvation Army assists 25 million Americans every year and does not discriminate. Ventureans may be familiar with the Salvation Army’s local Hope Center on Oak Street dedicated to finding housing, healthcare and employment. This shelter run by Denise Adams is open to all men, women and veterans in need of food, shelter and clothing. The Center holds 20 residents preparing for independent living. During the pandemic, the local Salvation Army in Ventura launched pop-up food pantries and fed 350 families four times a week. The food pantry is now open every Wednesday and Friday.

Editor’s note: Dolly Parton pledges $1 million to boost Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign amidst declining donations.


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