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Santa getting new digs for downtown

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POSTED March 1, 2014 1:12 a.m.

Christmas is an already an afterthought to most people. 

The family that flew in is long gone. The presents aren’t new anymore. The weather has definitely changed. 

But Jennifer Munoz and her family are still focused on Santa Claus – more specifically, the place that he calls home. 

No, not the North Pole. The hut on the corner of Main Street and Yosemite Avenue that has been serving as the digs for Ben Jetton and his red suit. The jolly man in red has been good natured about it all, but his hut is literally falling down around him every time he climbs up into the chair. 

And Munoz did something about it. 

Through an online crowdfunding campaign the Manteca mother raised just over $1,100 to help construct a new Santa hut that will be rolled out at the annual Manteca Holiday Parade later this year. An anonymous donor made an additional $1,000 cash contribution. A local roofing company has agreed to donate parts and labor to help make sure that inclement weather doesn’t ruin the seasonal fun. 

It has been an undertaking. But ever since Munoz brought her family to Manteca she’s been taking her children down to Jetton every Christmas so that they can partake in a holiday tradition right in the heart of the community that she calls home. 

The outpouring of support, she said, has been inspiring. 

“The involvement the community has shown in all of this has been a big motivator,” Munoz said. “This wasn’t one of those things where somebody donated $5 and said, ‘OK – I’m done.’ 

“Everybody collaborated together and stepped up and said here – this is what we want. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Nearly every weekend since Christmas Munoz’ husband has been working with a contractor and Jetton to strip a trailer down to the bare metal frame and get it ready to rebuild a stable structure that will serve Jetton – or whoever takes the reins after him – for years to come.

It’ll be debuted when it rolls down Yosemite Avenue in December. 

And Munoz isn’t done yet. 

Some ideas that have been floated to her have included keeping the fundraising effort going to create a maintenance fund to ensure that the state of disrepair that fell on the nearly 50-year-old structure before doesn’t happen again. 

Right now she’s working on finding out how to get the check to Jetton since GiveForeward.com – the crowdfunding site that she used to raise the money – only allows the check to be cashed by a non-profit organization. Once she clears that hurdle it’ll be easier to secure some of the building materials needed to get things going. 

Then it’ll be Christmas all over again for Manteca’s Downtown Santa and the crew of volunteers he’s put together to help put a new roof over his head. 

“I think that Christmas is something that should be thought about year-round,” Munoz said. “I think about the family togetherness and going down there to see him as a family. 

“This community has shown that they really try to live like that, and it motivates me to keep this thing going.”

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