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Dinner helps family of victims in deadly fire
Jeanette Russell stands in front of the burned out shell of her friend and neighbors mobile home. Her friend, Bernadette Llamas, died the day after the Jan. 10 fire. - photo by GLENN KAHL

The Portuguese Fraternal Society of America, in cooperation with Fagundes Meats & Catering in Manteca, is coming to the aid of a family in need.

The organization is sponsoring a drive-thru tri-tip and chicken dinner fund-raiser at Fagundes Meats on Thursday, April 10, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., with all proceeds going to help the family of Beni and Richard Llamas. The mother and son were victims of a fatal fire that gutted their Almond Blossom Mobile Home Park residence at the beginning of the year. Both were transported by Medi-flight to the UC Davis Burn Center.

Beni Llamas, 88, sustained burns to more than 50 percent of her body. The day after the 4 a.m. fire, despite her son’s frantic and heroic efforts, she succumbed to her injuries while at the burn center. Her son, Richard, who pulled his mother from the inferno, sustained severe burns to his hands and arms while trying to save his mother. He is currently awaiting skin graft surgery at the UC Davis Medical Center, according to Angela Seamas, the Supreme Youth President of the Portuguese Fraternal Society of America.

Seamas, who is a very close friend of the Llamas family, is hosting the dinner fund-raiser with the help of the members of the Supreme Youth committee. They are holding this event “to support the family through their hardship, and comfort them through their grief,” Seamas stated in the flyer she made to advertise the event. Her best friend, Kristi Llamas, is the granddaughter of Beni Llamas who perished in the fire.

“The fire completely destroyed Rick’s life. He’s lost his mother, his home, his vehicle, along with all of his personal belongings. He also lost his beloved cat, Tasha,” said Seamas.

She added, “Rick was excited to start a new job – scheduled the week following the fire – after months of searching since he was last able to work. Unfortunately, he had no insurance at the time of the accident, which has caused an extreme financial hardship. Adding to support from his brothers, sister and other family, this fund will help to support Rick’s medical bills, finding him a new home, clothing, household supplies, and transportation.”

The Jan. 10 fire made 71-year-old Jeanette Russell a heroine among the residents in her tightly knit mobile home neighborhood on East Yosemite Avenue east of Highway 99. Awakened by the blinding blaze, Russell rushed outside only to discover that it was her friend’s house that was being consumed by the fire. She then saw mother and son huddled in the small front walkway of their mobile home with their backs too close to the tremendous heat from the fire. That’s how far mother and son made it as they tried to escape the conflagration. Russell then rushed to pull her friend farther away from the blaze.

Donation for the dinner fund-raiser is $15 per person. Fagundes Meats is located at 142 Jason St. off North Main Street. For any questions on how to make donations to the family, or where to purchase tickets, call Angela Seamas at 209.969.9601, or send an email to Make check donations for the Llamas family payable to Portuguese Fraternal Society of America.