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Santa’s sleigh for seniors is a Manteca fire engine

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Santa’s sleigh for seniors is a Manteca fire engine

Manteca Fire reserve firefighter Kyle Cacayorina, center, helps load Christmas present onto Engine 241.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 21, 2012 12:38 a.m.

There’s a big red sleigh rolling through the streets of Manteca today.

But instead of a man in a red suit delivering toys to deserving children, this sleigh is full of men in dark blue uniforms passing out gifts to a group of people often neglected and overlooked during the holiday season.

Seniors.

Whether it’s the elderly on a fixed income or the homebound or those that live alone without family nearby, the senior Christmas outreach program – a joint effort between the Manteca Senior Center, the Manteca Fire Department and the citizens of the community that donated the gifts – makes sure that everybody has something to smile about.

It will be firefighters delivering the presents to preselected seniors today after multiple engines began the task Thursday afternoon.

And according to recreational specialist Brandy Clark – who oversees the operations at the Manteca Senior Center – gratitude doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the reactions of the beneficiaries.

“I told a story at the Manteca Christmas Tree lighting about a woman that received a gift last year and called up in tears,” Clark said. “She told me that she hadn’t received a Christmas gift in 20 years. Those are the people that we’re hoping to help with a program like this.

“And that night we had more than 50 people agree to adopt one of our seniors.”

For the last month a tree with individual tags has sat in the lobby of the senior center so that residents that wanted to participate could help brighten the holiday of one of the 100 people the program intends to contact.

They had absolutely no problem finding enough people to field all 100 – twice as many as were served last year.

The outpouring of support, however, didn’t stop there.

Gift cards, cash and additional presents began to roll in even after everybody had been adopted and allowed for even more seniors to be added to the rolls – an overwhelming response that Clark said was welcomed and somewhat unexpected.

For the firefighters tackling the task of actually distributing the presents collected however, the true spirit of Christmas shone brightly in their reactions and their gratitude.

“The response has been positive and thankful and a lot of people were surprised to see the fire department pulling up,” said Engine 242 Captain Marvin Mears. “I think that for a lot of people that don’t have families and are by themselves, this sort of bridges that for them and brings in that Christmas spirit.”

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