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Neighbors, strangers come to aid of fire victims

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Neighbors, strangers come to aid of fire victims

Captain Marvin Mears, left, of the Manteca City Fire Department, delivers one of his bikes to the Yorktown Lane neighborhood garage sale fund-raiser Saturday with the help of fire engineers Michael...

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/ The Bulletin/


POSTED March 23, 2010 3:09 a.m.
Several lucky garage sale enthusiasts went home with some of the best deals in town while helping a good cause at the same time.

Three dollars for an oil change, three bucks for a 60-day membership at California Total Fitness, and hair cut and color at Exclusive Styles valued at up to $75 for just the same amount, among other prizes given away at a garage sale fund-raiser over the weekend to benefit a family who lost everything to a fire that completely destroyed their home before Thanksgiving.

The effort raised a total of $944, reported Steve Rehkopf, the captain of the Neighborhood Watch group that spearheaded the Yorktown Lane community-wide garage sale Saturday. All proceeds were donated to Carlos Gonzales and his three-generation family to help them get back on their feet.
The prizes were among the best deals in town. They included:
•Oil change by Meineke in Manteca with four chances to win for a total of four prizes.
•California Total Fitness  60-day membership – five chances to win, or a total of five prizes.
•Hair care, cut and color valued up to $75 from Exclusive Styles donated by Georgette Somer.
•Spa beauty basket by Burts Bee/Avon and eyebrow shaping @ Exclusive Styles
•A $25 gift certificate for Cookie Lee Jewelry - $25 certificate donated by Terri Giannosa.
•A 10-speed bicycle donated by Captain Marvin Mears of the Manteca City Fire Department.
•A colorful hand-made quilt.

Mears, accompanied by firefighter engineers Michael Loomis and Robert E. Jacobsen, delivered the bike at 9 a.m. Saturday, shortly after the garage sales opened.

The tickets were sold at each of the neighborhood homes participating in the garage sales for $3 apiece or two for $5. They sold like hot cakes.

“We just like to let them know we’re still thinking of them,” said Rick Peloso who lives just across the street from the Gonzaleses’ house which is currently being rebuilt.

Peloso, along with neighbor Japa Wilson, hatched the idea of a neighborhood garage sale to help the Gonzales family.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, coming from San Francisco, just to witness like this,” said Wilson, a literally towering figure who played basketball while in college at the University of Southern California. He and wife Gina were among those who left their heart in San Francisco and crossed over the Altamont to take advantage of affordable homes in Manteca four years ago.

“This is our first home together; we’ve been married 10 years,” said Wilson, the father of two young children who go to Neil Hafley School.

He still commutes to his job in San Francisco where he is a union pipe fitter.

Peloso said he and the entire neighborhood rallied behind Carlos Gonzales and his wife Helen because of the couple’s deep devotion to their family.

“He opened up his home to his family. He’s a gentleman. God love people who are like that,” Peloso said of the grandfather who works at the Home Depot in Tracy.

On Thanksgiving Day, just days after the fire that gutted the modest one-story home, the Pelosos with other families in this close-knit Yorktown Lane neighborhood, drove in caravan to the Manteca home of the Gonzaleses’ daughter and surprised the extended family with a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.

“It was really very emotional,” Peloso said of the Gonzales family’s reaction to the unexpected gesture of kindness from their neighbors.

“But that’s what we’re here for. We’re a close-knit community; we’re a close-knit neighborhood,” Wilson said.

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