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Boys & Girls kids celebrate MLK with service

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Boys & Girls kids celebrate MLK with service

Victor Espinoza, 10, sifts through bark looking for trash during Monday’s clean-up at Bobette and Charlie Giles Memorial Park.

JAMES BURNS/The Bulletin

POSTED January 21, 2014 1:37 a.m.

John Scharf gathered a group of children outside the gym doors, handing out garbage bags and a history lesson.

The staff and members of the Boys & Girls Club of Manteca and Lathrop paid tribute to civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday afternoon the best way they knew how – with service.

Scharf led a parade of tiny trash collectors around the Bobette and Charlie Giles Memorial Park for nearly a half-hour, each carefully scouring the grass and bark for paper, peels and glass.

“This park is used by the club and the people of this neighborhood,” said Scharf, the Game Room Coordinator and a longtime volunteer with the Sunrise Kiwanis and Manteca Police Department. “And we want to keep it safe.”

Victor Espinoza, 10, crawled beneath the landing of the playground, sifting through the bark. Sisters Alyssa Lions, 9, and Alexia Cozort, 6, proudly showcased the contents of their bag.

“We try something for every kind of holiday,” said Executive Director Jeanie Miller.  “We want to do something to educate the kids, teach them why we celebrate it.”

The kids ate up Monday’s lessons, quite literally. Front Desk Coordinator Loretta Huerta rewarded those that were able to share something about Martin Luther King Jr. with a piece of candy and treat bags.

Monday was also free nacho day, which left Huerta head-spun and beyond busy.

She handled the work load with grace and poise, a demeanor and form King would have appreciated.

Huerta did her best to simplify the life and times of King for the curious, pointing to the club’s free-use amenities – such as the water fountain near the kitchen and the basketball gym – to better explain racism and segregation.

“A lot of the kids can’t believe it. I tell them look at the drinking fountain – you wouldn’t have been able to drink out of the same fountain. Basketball teams – you wouldn’t have been able to play on the same basketball teams. All they know is to share,” Huerta said. “(Martin Luther King) made that change for us; he made that change for everyone.”

Miller said the club has similar plans for upcoming holidays. For Valentine’s Day, a volunteer will teach the kids how to bake cookies.

“The kids love holidays – no matter the holiday. We want kids to be here and to be safe, not out on the streets,” Miller said. “So any activity that gives them incentive to come into the club is a good thing.”

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