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300+ guests gather under the stars
Get-together to benefit Great Valley Writing Project
placeholder - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

It was a special night under the stars at the Harris Ranch in Ripon. In a grassy area surrounded by almond trees heavy with nuts just about ready for harvest, the jazz music of the Ernie Bucio Band wafted in the evening breeze while about 300 guests enjoyed a sit-down dinner al fresco followed later on by dancing.

The Friday event, hosted for the fifth year in a row by Manteca business owners and philanthropists Bill and Lucille Harris, was the annual fund-raiser for the Great Valley Writing Project, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve “the teaching of writing in local schools” and to be a catalyst in the development of “teacher consultants” or “teachers teaching teachers.” That mission is made possible by the many workshops and programs offered by GVWP at various times of the year. In the summer, for example, summer workshops are offered for young budding authors where they can explore and learn writing, publishing, and multimedia technology.

“It’s a really good program. It’s well run with great results. That’s why we support it,” said Gary Dei Rossi, San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Deputy Superintendent of Student Programs and Services, of the Great Valley Writing Project.

Dei Rossi, a former principal at Golden West and Lathrop elementary schools in the Manteca Unified School District, was among the guests who attended the annual fund-raising dinner and dance at the Harris Ranch. It’s the only major fund-raiser during the year benefiting the Great Valley Writing Project.

Along with the county Office of Education which supports GVWP by allowing the use of its classrooms for the workshops, are several other sponsoring organizations and businesses in the area. They include the Great Valley Writing Project at California State University, Stanislaus, Woodward Elementary, the Manteca  Bulletin, Give Every Child a Chance, Brocchini Farms, Baldwin Trucking, Ted Bricker Electrical, Fonseca Farms, the Harris Family Foundation, Ralph Hayes & Sons, George Perry & Sons, Raymus Homes, Rick King Design, SRH Enterprises, Save Mart Supermarkets, Thelma Stewart, Tuff Boy Companies, and The Wine Group.

Other people who support the program by donating their time at Friday’s fund-raiser as well as in previous years’ events were Dave and Karen Cultrera, Bryce Perkins, and Pat Rowe. The former Ripon FFA Boosters, headed by Dave Cultrera, were the master cooks behind the dinner’s scrumptious entrée. Ten students in GVWP’s student leadership program also volunteered that evening by helping serve the food and drinks.

For more information about the Great Valley Writing Project and its programs, or how to become a sponsor, contact Melissa King, the project coordinator, at (209) 667-3490 or send her an e-mail at