LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE ( — A surprise was slipped into a Salvation Army kettle in La Cañada Flintridge this month.

An anonymous donor left a check for $5,000 in veteran bell ringer John Shepard’s kettle – a record donation for him and the Glendale chapter of the Salvation Army.

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“I have no idea who gave it,” Shepard said. Shepard has been a Salvation Army bell ringer for the past four decades.

Shepard says when donors write checks, he turns away.

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“It’s private – it’s like the confessional,” he said.

The donor will never see the joy her gift will bring to the families the Glendale chapter serves, the number of which has tripled over the past two years. The money will go into the general fund to be used for after-school programs, the food bank and Christmas presents for as many as 600 families.

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“We get to see the joy in the child’s face when they get a gift,” Shepard said.