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California Rehab Center opens near DHM
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Jeff Steckler stands amid workout equipment in his new rehabilitation practice in Manteca located at North and Cottage avenues.The facility has five private rooms in its 2,200 square foot floor plan. An open house is set for Tuesday, Feb. 24, 4 to 6 p.m. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin
You can’t beat a big cup of hot chocolate plus a hefty scoop of hospitality when walking in to an early morning interview — all at a new rehabilitation center near Doctors Hospital.
Business development director Kelsey Moore was in the office of California Rehabilitation waiting for me behind the office counter and CEO Jeff Steckler welcomed me on the spot.  
The hot chocolate was Kelsey’s doing - Steckler and I had gotten together at a recent noon meeting of the Manteca Rotary. We had chatted across the table about his excitement in opening a Manteca satellite to his Modesto rehab operation.
There’s something very special in today’s world about warm and hospitable folks who demonstrate an aura of caring for others. These two definitely made an impression on me both on the telephone and in person. There are another 40 staffers like them at their Modesto location on Carpenter Road.
The Manteca facility is located at 1208 East North Street near the corner of Cottage Avenue where  plans are afoot for an open house Tuesday, Feb. 24 from 4 to 6 p.m. .  Their physical therapy staff all have advance training relating to rehabilitation of both injuries and illnesses.
It has long been obvious to me that an interview needs to dip into the personal life of the professional, the owner if at all possible - that not only tells the character, but also the organization of the business or practice. From that cup of hot chocolate to pretty much hearing his life’s story and the opening of this second location, it was all there.
First off, Steckler is a native of North Dakota who has quite a family of children - he and his wife Melissa have been married for 22 years.  
Oldest son Josh, 19,  is a mechanical engineering major at U.C. Merced -he hopes to design cars some day. High school sophomore Christina, 15, is next, followed by seventh grader Anna, 12,  in junior high and son Elijah, 10, a fifth grader in Modesto’s Sylvan School District.
The kids pretty much know what direction they are headed in their lives after graduation.  In addition to the oldest wanting to design automobiles, Christy says she wants to be a vet and is eyeing U.C. Davis. Anna thinks she wants to be a social studies teacher and Elijah is considering becoming a pastor some day.
It’s pretty cut and dried - they are definitely focused.
Steckler said there are a couple very important things he has always told his children:  “Two things are important in life, birth and death. You only have one shot at this thing called life - you better do it purposely.”

Steckler recalls his roots
I’ve always been curious where successful people  draw their character, their foundations for a good life — it’s usually through a grandmother or primary school teachers I have found.
For Steckler,  his memories go  back to Elgin, North Dakota, where he had a third grade teacher he vividly recalls. “I remember her being like a grandma - a very stern, but very gentle teacher.”  He said he was the oldest of four children and “just wanted to do good” in school.
He said it killed him to stay home when he was sick, saying he had a drive to do his best for the sake of his parents.
It was a small school with only 13 students in his class- 175 total from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
“I knew everybody in high school where there were some 80 guys - only four didn’t go out for football,” he said.
Steckler played center, nose guard and middle line backer. The school had an excellent football program, he said. The coach was the history teacher, and he hated history, but he had to do well if he wanted to play ball.  The same was true with the assistant coach who taught biology.
When he was just 13, he remembers “cleaning up” in the Punt, Pass and Kick football contest as a tall, scrawny freshman. He soon was to become a kicker on the high school team after booting the ball through the end zone in the tryouts.
Steckler began his medical career in a nursing school where he actually burned out in s skilled nursing program, at the same time having to spend a lot of time with his dad who was suffering with cancer.  
From there he went into the U.S. Army where he spent four years working in physical therapy.  He said his company was always on the ready with packed ruck sacks ready for possible deployment anywhere around the world. It was an 18-hour call that would have taken them to Lebanon and beyond, he said.
It was in 1994 - some 15 years ago - that he and a partner went into an occupational therapy practice in a skilled nursing facility in Turlock. A year later they added physical therapy and speech therapy to their practice.
From there the practice just kept on growing until he bought his partner out and he has directed the practice every since - being a therapy assistant as well. His wife Melissa is also involved in the practice of occupational therapy.  

Manteca facility has five private rooms
Now in the new 2,200 square foot office in Manteca, Steckler has five private treatment rooms and one hand treatment room in addition to the usual rehab tables and physical therapy equipment.
The firm is contracted with hospitals, rehab hospitals and in the operation of outpatient therapy practices.
Their specialties involve inpatient hospital rehabilitation, outpatient therapy to include hand rehabilitation, work hardening and functional capacity evaluations.