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DeGroot family becomes an inspiration to Waterford and his Manteca Ford team

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POSTED April 18, 2012 5:38 p.m.

When Phil Waterford wakes up in the morning, he has expectations that great things are going to happen.

“Almost every day something amazing happens” Waterford said. “I have had the privilege of meeting some amazing human beings and this week was no different.”

On Monday, Waterford met the DeGroot Family. The DeGroot family, originally from Holland, migrated to Lodi, then moved to Stockton, and have now lived in Manteca for 50 years. Albertos and Annie DeGroot came to the United States in 1952 from Holland for better opportunities. Over 12 million immigrants entered the United States between 1892 and 1954 through the portal of Ellis Island, a small island in New York Harbor just off the New Jersey coast.

For five years during World War II, Germany occupied Holland. Dutch warehouses were loaded with food supplies. One of the first things the Germans did when they occupied Holland was ration all of the food supplies. It was a very difficult time for Holland, and the people were in constant danger.

“Whenever you went grocery shopping there was only a certain amount of food you could get with rationing stamps,” said Albertos. The DeGroot family made a decision to leave Holland behind and strive for something better in the United States. The U.S. was on its way out of the Great Depression, and people were filled with optimism.

The couple met over 60 years ago at a dance school in Holland. “Back then, that’s what young people did, everyone knew how to dance” said Albertos, “We all wore our wooden shoes, even in the snow, and just had a great time.”

Albertos DeGroot came from a family of 12 boys and 4 girls. Annie DeGroot also came from a large family, with 9 siblings.

Albertos is a retired dairy farmer and for the past 21 years he and his wife, Annie, have been volunteering at the St. Vincent De Paul church to help feed families in need. The program, called “Food for Families,” is designed to fight hunger in our community. The volunteers ask the food recipients for proof of residence to make sure that they are local, living in Manteca, Lathrop or French Camp. The monetary donations that are collected from the church and community are converted to wholesale food purchases primarily from Raley’s and SaveMart. No tobacco, alcohol products or sodas are purchased for this program.

Albertos and Annie DeGroot volunteer their time cheerfully, as they feel that there is a genuine need for this program. “Many people don’t have food on their table and we want to help” said Annie. “Sometimes people come in with an attitude as if they’re owed something. But for the most part the recipients are very grateful for the food that’s given to help feed their families.”

The DeGroot family is well-known for their hard work and tireless dedication in helping our community. Albertos’ older brother, Ignacius DeGroot, is a priest serving Indian reservations in Arizona. Several years ago he received national attention when he decided to open doors and invite homeless people inside the St. Mary’s gym in Stockton so that they would be out of the cold. He was advised by the Department of Health and Law Enforcement that he could not do this and if he continued he would be arrested. Within 3 months, people in the community decided something had to be done.

Today, St. Mary’s dining hall serves the needs of poor men, women and children, nurturing self-reliance for a hopeful future, by offering food, clothing, medical and dental care, educational programs and general assistance.

Coming to the United States, the DeGroot family had many challenges, including language barriers and some communication difficulties. They overcame these difficulties together and when Waterford asked the DeGroots, what was the greatest thing that ever happened in their life, they both simply smiled and pointed at each other. Albertos and Annie have three children, one daughter and two sons. When they moved to Manteca they were the only house on their street. Their first car was a Studebaker and even though they had to use a 2x4 to prop the seat up so that it would not recline while driving, it was their means of transportation. They have come a long way since their Studebaker and decided to purchase a brand new Ford Escape.

“This vehicle really meets our needs, it sits up higher than a car, has great visibility, it has a very smooth ride, good fuel economy, it’s quiet, comfortable and it’s easy to get in and out for my wife and I,” enthused Albertos.


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