The sun is still hiding from the frost this morning, but some 50 hardy Manteca Nuts & Bolts diehards are already up and about making sure needy children will wake up with a smile on Christmas morning.
For the eighth year in a row, members of the local car club are at Mountain Mikes Pizza on North Main Street at this time of the year enjoying a 6 o’clock breakfast while presenting their collection of brand-new toys to the Marine Corps for their annual Toys for Tots project.
“For the last seven years, we’ve been gathering toys for Toys for Tots. It’s been really good. We get bikes, tricycles, footballs. A couple of guys last year made some homemade rocking horses. All brand-new toys,” said club spokesman Al Tribiuzio who was instrumental in getting this project launched.
This year, he is giving three (kids’) bicycles and a scooter. His neighbor, a retired California Highway Patrol officer who is also a Marine veteran but is not a club member, is bringing a scooter to donate.
Master Gunner Sgt. Ray Bael of the Marine Corps will be there to accept the toys and give a brief presentation about what Toys for Tots is all about.
“He shows up every year” to this Nuts & Bolts Club breakfast and toy drive, Tribiuzo said of Bael.
Last year, “we filled two big vans for Tots for Toys,” Tribiuzo said. He expects they will collect the same number of toy donations from members today.
Growing up, his parents had a hard time and he didn’t experience “real Christmas” as a young boy, he said, tracing the genesis of the club’s Toys for Tots annual involvement.
“I never wanted to have kids feel the way I did Christmas morning. As I grew up, I’ve been blessed with a good life, I have plenty of money. So I started doing that (donating to Toys for Tots) and had the club involved,” he recalled. “Now, all the guys are really anxious (to donate) every year.”
“It’s just a good thing, and it’s a lot of fun. It makes me feel good. Christmas morning, I always think of the kids getting the toys, the kids that aren’t lucky enough to have that kind of thing. I get a really special feeling every Christmas morning thinking of the kids that are going to get the toys from us,” added Tribiuzio.
Manteca Nuts & Bolts is a car club that has been around for 20 years now.
“We go to car shows, a lot of charity car shows. We have old, old cars, hot rods and classic cars. Every Wednesday, we go to Mountain Mike’s for breakfast,” which doubles as an informal meeting for the informal group, Tribiuzio said.
They used to meet at Perko’s on East Yosemite but when that closed and turned into the Black Bear Diner restaurant, “we kind of bounced here and there. We worked out a deal with Jeff Leotard (Mountain Mike’s owner) and he opened the restaurant for us. He’s a great guy. He likes doing things for the community like the community turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. He’s got a very good chef and we have eggs and linguica and sausage and bacon – the whole shebang,” Tribiuzio said with a laugh.
Breakfast usually starts at 7 a.m. Anybody who is interested in joining the group “is more than welcome” to the weekly Wednesday breakfast. There are no club dues.
“It’s kind of an informal club and we all like it that way. We’re just a bunch of old guys getting together and have a lot of fun; kind of laidback. We all like it that way and it seems to work,” Tribiuzio said.
About 95 percent of the members are from Manteca, with the rest from Lathrop, Stockton and Ripon.