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There are 25 days left to donate

The 50-year-old Santa’s Hut.

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED January 7, 2014 1:17 a.m.

When Jennifer Munoz came up with the idea for trying to raise $3,000 to overhaul Santa’s Downtown Manteca home, she knew it was going to be a long shot.

The number alone was something that she came up with on a whim, and with just over two weeks until Christmas, the relatively new Manteca resident had high hopes but relatively tempered expectations about whether she’d actually hit that mark.

And she’s been pleasantly surprised.

As of Monday night local residents had pledged nearly $900 on website, and at least one local subcontractor – Elite Roofing – agreed to donate the materials and labor needed to complete that part of the project.

“It’s overwhelming to see the amount of people that have come forward,” Munoz said. “I put the word out and I didn’t expect it to take off the way that it did. I think that it’s amazing because sometime’s what is important to you isn’t important to somebody else, and this has showed me that people care about this.”

The shelter – which gives Manteca Santa Ben Jetton a temporary place to greet children and families for the month of December thanks to the Downtown Merchants Association – has fallen into grave disrepair. It’s more than 50 years old and has relied on a series of patchwork repairs to stay standing during that time. Cinderblocks keep it balanced once it gets into place. Wood has rotted out. And when Jetton and his crew get ready to roll it out each year whether it makes it is a roll of the dice.

Munoz wants to change that. And she’s going to get a little bit of help.

Little did she know that Jetton had already started to make preparations to construct a completely new shelter during his offseason last year. The trailer that will serve as the foundation for the structure is already in place, and now it becomes a matter of gathering the materials and those who have the expertise to put them together.

Her effort has brought that goal into sharp focus.

Just walking through the grocery store has become an exercise in greeting those who have seen her on television news segments or in the local paper. Knowing that the word has spread, she said, will hopefully help her dream of constructing new digs for the man in the red suit realized that much faster.

“The comments that people have left when they donated have been nothing short of amazing,” Munoz said. “My daughter goes to preschool, and I had one of the grandparents stop me the other day and talk about what was going on. That’s how far the word has spread.

“I think that it’s amazing, and I’m grateful that people have gone out of their way to support this. I think it’s something that’s going to happen.”

Among the comments by donors so far are:

• “I went there as a kid and my kids went there too. I don’t live in Manteca anymore but that is where I call home. I believe there are a lot of businesses in Manteca that deal with trailers and business that deal with construction that can pull this off even better than what you have planned now.” – Bruce Rennie, $100.

• “We love the holiday spirit in this community and would be disappointed not to see Santa’s hut on the corner. It’s a wonderful holiday tradition that needs to carry on.” – Valet and Sharon Terry, $50.

“Merry Christmas and I hope to see your house updated next year.” – Anonymous, $250.

To make a donation, visit and search for “Ben Jetton.” The link that comes up with bring you to Munoz’ page, and you can donate via PayPal from there. There are 25 days left to donate.

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