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Freitas marks 50 years of service as Lion
Joe Freitas was startled to walk in last Sunday to a surprise Manteca Lions Club gathering marking his 50th anniversary of his membership in the service club. Behind him is his partner Marie Belino. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Just how devoted of a member is Joe Freitas to the Manteca Lions Club?

Ask his daughter Linda Abeldt.

She was at Manteca Hospital (now known as Doctors Hospital of Manteca) in labor. Freitas- who organized club gambling bus trips to Reno - had the bus stop at the hospital with all of the members and their guests piling off.

“I could hear them out in the hallway chanting ‘hurry up, hurry up,” Abeldt recalled.

She added, with a chuckle, if she hadn’t given birth to her daughter shortly thereafter that her father probably would have jumped back on the bus and left.

Freitas was honored last Sunday at a surprise Lions Club meeting and dinner at the home of member Jerry Weed and wife Kathy. He was presented with a plaque marking 50 years of service by club president Lisa Stallings.

Freitas, 84, joined the Lions in 1960 as he neared his 35th birthday. He was a member of the Manteca Jaycees at the time and had been involved in numerous service projects that club was involved with including organizing Manteca’s first Christmas parade and helping put street signs in place throughout Manteca.

Freitas wanted to continue his community service endeavors but the Junior Chamber of Commerce has a mandatory kick out age of 35. So he joined the Lions along with other Jaycee members his age and ended up continuing community service projects such as the parade and adding more.

Lions International’s signature project is improving the vision of those that can’t afford to pay for eye care. Freitas arranged numerous times for the Lions mobile eyesight testing unit to come to Manteca for those who couldn’t afford eye care.

 Why Freitas has stayed with the Lion’s Club is a no-brainer as far as he’s concerned.

“I like helping kids,” Freitas said.

The club supports numerous youth endeavors including high school scholarships for Manteca, East Union, Sierra, and Lathrop high school seniors.

As a Lions Club member Freitas played a pivotal role in securing land for Lincoln Park. The Lions also put a baseball field in place as did other Manteca service clubs.

It was old hat for Freitas by then. As a Jaycees member he had helped arrange for land for the original Shasta Park.

Freitas for nearly 30 years owned and operated Joe’s Food Center that was in the building on East Highway 120 where Fishermen’s Warehouse is located today.

Just over 38 years ago Freitas partnered with Andrew Rossi, and Ted Poulos to launch Delta National bank.

Freitas was one of the founding members of the Manteca Boys & Girls Club and was active in the Manteca Chamber of Commerce.

“Joe’s one of the backbones of the club,” said fellow Lions member Rob Norlinger.

Fellow Lions member Dave Macedo agreed.

“Joe’s a complete gentleman,” Macedo added.