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Holiday social brings friends together for good cause
Vern Gebhardt, left, chats with Dick Durham. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Dick Durham knows that the $75 it cost for a ticket to Wednesday’s 34th annual Holiday Affair staged by the Manteca Soroptimists is well spent.

It’s more than just a time to greet old friends and meet new acquaintances.

“It goes for good causes,” Durham said as he mingled in the lobby of the Bank of Stockton on North Main Street while enjoying hors d’oeuvres and conversation.

The retired East Union High principal should know. One of the biggest benefactors of the holiday bash has been the funding of the Manteca Unified teen crisis services through Valley Community Counseling.

Durham has firsthand knowledge of how the money raised has helped teens who are struggling with various issues, have been physically abused or who were contemplating suicide.

“It makes a big difference,” noted Manteca Unified Director of Health Services Director Caroline Thibodeau of the teen crisis services partially funded by the Soroptimists.

Valley Community Counseling Executive Director David Love noted between 1,500 and 2,000 teens each year make use of the services. It can range from a new student transfer struggling to fit in to counseling those contemplating suicide.

Thibodeau said cutbacks of state funding that can be used to retain the counseling services of those who are clinically trained makes the Soroptimist donation even more critical. Prior to Wednesday night’s 35th edition Holiday Affair, the Soropitmists have donated more than  $302,500 to the school district for the purpose of providing teen counseling services.

She noted that traditional academic counselors — who are often called upon in a pinch to help even though they aren’t clinically trained — have been part of staffing cutbacks at each high school. Thibodeau added dealing with students in need puts additional pressure on teachers as well as they are often the first adult a troubled teen turns to.

Thibodeau’s predecessor Betty Ingell is the current Sorpotimist president. She handled door greeting duties on Wednesday. She’s been involved with the organization’s biggest fundraiser every year since joining the service club in 1986.

“It (the Holiday Affair) serves as a time where people can meet friends away from business or talk to friends they haven’t seen for a year,” Ingell said.

The teen crisis project along with scholarships as well as the Manteca Boys & Girls Club are the three biggest benefactors of the Sorprotimists.