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Firefighters step up to help fund free tutoring
MFD TIP APPLEBEES3 8-27-15 copy
Manteca Fire Captain Sterrie McLeod helps serve dinner plates for Applebees guests. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

One of the first community events that Wesley Chamberlain participated in as a Manteca firefighter was the annual tip night at Applebee’s to benefit Give Every Child a Chance.

And now he’s in charge of it.

On Wednesday Chamberlain helped lead a group of more than 20 Manteca Fire Department personnel in a fundraiser for the community tutoring organization that he also serves as a member of the Board of Directors.

Getting help to push for the roughly $1,500 that the event raises wasn’t as difficult as one would think.

According to Chamberlain, the department as a whole tries to find any way possible to give back to the community – an environment, he said, that starts at the top with heavily-involved Fire Chief Kirk Waters.

Spending a night waiting tables, bussing tables and bartending, he said, is just a natural extension of that desire to help.

“This is an organization that helps kids in the community and it’s great to be able to play a role in helping out wherever we can,” said Chamberlain, who works as an engineer for the department. “This is an organization that has grown so much since we first started doing this and the guys are willing to step up and help because they know the good that it does in the community – they know that it works.”

The award-winning tutoring program – which was the brainchild of the late Antone Raymus as a way to provide struggling students with the assistance they needed to succeed – now serves more than 4,200 kids over nearly 50 sites.

Wednesday’s fundraiser, according to GECAC Executive Director Carol Davis, serves not only as a way to help supplement the existing budget but also works as a wonderful tool to let the community know about what exactly the organization does.

The awareness, she said, is almost nearly as important as the money. And knowing that a group like the Manteca Firefighters Association local 1874 – which had its classic fire car parked out in front of the restaurant – is in their corner is amazing on its own.

“It’s awesome to have groups like these guys that go out of their way to help with an event that has become an annual tradition,” Davis said. “Their support is not just appreciated but it’s invaluable. Every one of these guys gives something back to the kids by being a part of this, and the awareness is almost as important as the money that it generates.

“People come down here and they’re excited to be supporting us. The firefighters make it something that’s fun and lively and you can’t put a price on that. It’s wonderful.”

Wednesday’s event was the 12th consecutive Tip-A-Firefighter event at Applebee’s – a gathering that has become an annual tradition for those that want to give to GECAC in a unique way.

Jesse Martinez said he didn’t know what was going on when he first showed up to the restaurant, but was glad that he stuck around and waited – learning both about GECAC and what he can do to help.

“I struggled as a student and there wasn’t anything like this around at that time,” Martinez said. “If tipping a little bit extra tonight helps a kid that needs it, then the time and money invested in this is well worth it.

“You can’t put a price on an education.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.