By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Firefighters, community help kids
Manteca Fire Captain Sterrie McLeod helps keep patrons hydrated while working the bar at Wednesdays Tip a Firefighter at the Manteca Applebees restaurant to benefit Give Every Child a Chance. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

It was a full house at Applebee’s Restaurant Wednesday evening for the Manteca Firefighters Tip-a-Firefighter fundraiser benefitting the Give Every Child a Chance free tutoring services for students struggling in school.
Altogether 25 off-duty firefighters and servers from Manteca Firefighters Local 1874 helped wait on customers who were encouraged to leave tips for the non-profit in a firefighter’s boot to help provide 700 struggling kids with free one-on-one tutoring services. Through various programs, GECAC serves more than 4,000 students annually.
The event began at 5 p.m. with two firefighters — Captain Derek George and Chase Keener — greeting the dinner crowd at the door. Parked at the curb was an old red Nash Rambler fire chief’s car that brought back memories of yesteryear for many.
Firefighter Kenton Shipherd was opening the inside door for the early diners with a smile.
Applebee’s general manager Jim Trondsen welcomed the annual event saying, “I think it’s fabulous – a great event.” 
Mayor Steve DeBrum added, “it’s a real opportunity to get people to come out and support a worthwhile program.”
GECAC administrator Chuck Crutchfield was there early having dinner with his family. Crutchfield  noted that firefighters Wes Chamberlain and Franco Torrice serve on the GECAC board.
“We have had a long-standing relationship with the firefighters and also with the Boys & Girls Club,” Crutchfield said.
As the suspender-clad firefighters waited on tables in the restaurant, some diners recalled firefighters from the past.  Minnie Martz was there with her family remembering back when her husband Bruce was the assistant postmaster in Manteca and when an older volunteer fireman, Frank Triglia, always demonstrated his passion for the fire service.
She said she remembered Frank running down Center Street after hearing the loud siren alert that brought the volunteers running from their homes and stores. Some, like Frank, would miss the trucks leaving the small Sycamore Avenue station at the old city hall.  But Frank could always be counted on to catch an engine at the corner, on the run, grabbing the vertical pole on the rear of a truck and jumping onto the rear running board riding all the way to the scene holding onto the back.  Minnie was there celebrating her son-in-law Richard Lewis’ birthday as well as  saluting the firefighters.
GECAC board chairperson Traci Holzer said she was showing her appreciation for the firefighters raising funds for the tutoring program.
“I have to go put some money in the boot from my organization,” she said. 
Holzer also is on the board for Doctors Hospital of Manteca where she is employed as the human resource manager.  She was sharing her table booth with her parents Bill and Donna Betz.  Donna is a new member of the volunteer Pink Ladies group at the hospital.
Waitress Emily Aman, 23, said she noticed the firefighters cramming the aisles of her restaurant helping serve the diners, saying they were,  “cute, nice, hardworking and muscular,” adding, “I need a firefighter in my life.”
As the dinner was about to conclude, word came through that a forest fire strike team was being sent out of Manteca at 8 p.m. to a Nevada County blaze with firefighters and their rig joining up with Woodbridge, Lathrop, Tracy and Lodi at Jahant Road and Highway 99 near Lodi.  On that truck was Captain Nick Haas, engineer, Brad Schemper, firefighters Chase Keener and Chris Martinez.
Three fire engines were parked in the driveway outside the restaurant during the dinner. Those sitting at their tables witnessed the men running to their trucks in response to two medical calls.  It was not until after 9 p.m. that the last of the men in blue said good night and walked out to their cars – having served on their own time and not being paid for their service, but having raised a sizable amount of funds for the Give Every Child a Chance educational program.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email