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Hearts & Hands opens new Manteca location
Working at Hearts and Hands Pregnancy and Family Resource Center are, from left, Cynthia Juarez, Laureen Tomlinson, and Anna Lopez - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

There was a time when CiCi Juarez had a hard time gauging the people of Manteca. She was new to The Family City, and fittingly, the Bay Area transplant felt like an outsider.

All these years later, Juarez’s perception of her neighbors has changed dramatically. As the executive director of Hearts and Hands Pregnancy and Family Resource Center, Juarez relies on a team of local volunteers to counsel and care for the young mothers and fathers in the community. She bears witness to her neighbors’  heart and humanity on a near-daily basis.

“I thought I came from a good place across the Bay,” Juarez said, “but I think Manteca is a cut above.”

On Thursday, she marveled again at their charity and generosity. Approximately 30 people attended Hearts and Hands’ open house event at its new location at 107 North Street, Suite 103, near the center of town.

Of those 30, Juarez said many showed an interest in a helping at the center when it officially re-opens on Wednesday, and two more inquired about  networking resources.

A local church has even expressed interest in helping fund the center’s various programs.

“A lot of people showed up interested in our mission and wanted to get involved, which is what we were after,” Juarez said. “We have a such a good community. Manteca is full of givers.

“We were expecting a lot more, but that’s the one thing about givers – they already have so much on their calendars. We feel like everybody that showed up was who needed to be there, hands down.”

The new facility will have an immediate impact on Hearts and Hands’ ability to reach those in need and offer on-site support.

The difference: space and location.

The new location is roughly 900 square feet larger than the organization’s single-room office on West North Street, and it features two counseling offices and a conference room that will be used as a classroom.

“We were in the smallest office,” Juarez said with a chuckle, “but we packed three desks in there. You have to make do with what you have, right?”

The new location also positions Hearts and Hands near one of Manteca’s main thoroughfares, allowing clients that don’t have a means of transportation to access the center via the bus system.

“It’s a perfect location. A lot of our clients don’t have transportation; they’re at a point of transition in their lives,” Juarez said. “We’re right there on the main drag now. They can take a bus to us.”

Hearts and Hands will celebrate its ribbon-cutting ceremony in May. The ceremony will coincide with the debut of new program aimed specifically at young fathers.

Brian Wilson will facilitate the fatherhood program, which Juarez says is unique to this area.  A former single father, Wilson “has the empathy and the heart and the experience” to captain the program, Juarez said. Hearts and Hands has already begun recruiting young fathers in need, combing local shelters and churches.

“This is going to be big part of our program. This is something that’s not locally and there is a huge need for it,” she added. “We did a lot of research; a huge percentage of the prison population didn’t have the presence of a father in their lives. We want to teach these fathers how important it is to say present.

“Both parents are equally important to children. There are a lot of services for mothers, but not a lot for fathers. We feel like it’s necessary to be a part of our program.”