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The season spirit thrives year round
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Irving Cora, 8 months, takes a nap during his first visit with Santa at Mantecas Bass Pro Shops Santas Wonderland. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

The spirit of Christmas.
You can’t find it by Googling.
It doesn’t exist in words or pictures.
Nor is it the exclusive domain of one day on the calendar.
To find it, you don’t have to venture far.
Look around Manteca.
This morning it thrives among the Mustangs and F-150s up on Main Street. There you will find a small army of volunteers preparing breakfast for 1,000 or more people they — in all likelihood — have never met. The children of those souls struggling with harsh financial realities will each collect a new toy given by complete strangers.
Christmas for Phil Waterford who opens his dealership showroom, heart, and wallet for the event isn’t a one-day thing. He is the spirit of Christmas Present as he daily strives to give of himself to help others.
Countless others on “Main Street” — independent store owners, trucking firm owners, farmers, small manufacturing concerns, and others — provide the financial support year-round for youth groups, school enrichment activities, helping the needy, and community endeavors such as the Memorial Weekend Commemoration that helps heal and comfort those that have given us so much.
Then there are the volunteers.
They don’t fade away once the Christmas lights go dark for another year.
In the cold of January they’ll be there patiently helping struggling kids learn through tutoring endeavors such as Give Every Child a Chance.
In the fog of February they will be removing graffiti and helping efforts to keep Manteca safe while wearing the uniforms of Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police as well as Seniors Aiding Fire Effort.
In March as the sun’s rays warm the day they’ll be out running baseball, softball, and soccer leagues for youth.
As the winds of April blow across the Sandy Plains they will be furnishing a room for a family at a homeless shelter as well as help mentoring those trying to get back on their feet so they can stay off the streets. They will do so through HOPE Family Shelters, Love INC, numerous churches, Haven of Peace, and various intervention programs.
In May they will be placing 2,400 flags and wrapping those who have been through the hell of war or who have lost loved ones that paid the ultimate price to secure our freedoms with their gratitude.
As the lazy days of summer arrive in June they will be helping mentor kids and provide them safe havens through endeavors such as the Boys & Girls Club, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, FFA, and Friday Unity in the Neighborhood.
In July as the last embers of Fourth of July celebrations fade they will be keeping Manteca history alive at the museum, teaching gun safety at the Manteca Sportsmen’s Club, and sharing values at vacation Bible schools.
In the summer swelter of August they will be sorting donated food at Second Harvest and countless food closets throughout the community.
As school days shift into high gear in September they will be helping in classrooms and supporting endeavors such as sports, music and a wide repertoire of interests as well as giving of their time to mentor youth in potential vocations. At the same time groups like those at Del Webb at Woodbridge go into overdrive to support efforts to make sure homeless students have what they need to succeed in school whether it is supplies, personal hygiene products, or clothes
When the frost starts appearing on the pumpkins in October, they will make events such as the Pumpkin Fair happen. Such endeavors staged by service clubs such as Sunrise Kiwanis, Manteca Rotary, Manteca Sorpotimist, Manteca Lions, Manteca Kiwanis, and Manteca Morning Rotary to name a few are about a lot more than just helping people have fun. They help fund programs for youth and seniors, teen crisis counseling, medical outreach, and more.
In November as the leaves start falling they are there as foster parents, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and neighbors who give of their time, heart, and money to help mentor kids.
And when December rolls around they all shift into overdrive knowing Christmas symbolizes the spirit of unselfish giving that they’ve been embracing all year by giving of themselves, their time, and their worldly possessions.
In addition to the generosity of business people and volunteers a lot of other people open their hearts as well.
If you don’t believe that is exceptional about Manteca, think about the following:
uWhere else are there events such as those staged by a high school soccer team each year to help a specific cancer victim consistently raise $14,000 annually?
uHow many communities can say they have an unbroken string of 17 years of making sure every struggling family in their community has a turkey and a ham dinner for both Thanksgiving and Christmas with all of the trimmings? The cost this past year was $64,000 for two holiday meals for 1,600 families in Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon. And it was all made possible by donations from kids who gave up their allowance savings, the elderly on fixed incomes who know what it is like to go without, individuals, families, businesses, and service clubs.
uMore than 90 percent of the funding to help shelter 200 homeless families a year comes from individuals, church congregation members, and businesses.
Manteca isn’t perfect. Nor is it a hot bed of Scrooges as some malcontents on the World Wide Web contend that don’t like the community’s tough love approach to single homeless men and women.
Ironic, isn’t it, that the same people that are pushing for law and order even among the homeless are also at the forefront to make sure services are available for them.
It reflects what some call tough love.
You help the helpless but you don’t enable them as that only works to seal their fate.
There is no false Christmas crescendo in Manteca. What has happened in the past four weeks of helping struggling families, the forgotten elderly, and less fortunate kids is a reflection of what goes on year round in Manteca.