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Event raises funds to help foster children
Jail bird Kevin Williams makes some calls by cell phone to try and raise bail during the benefit for Agape Villages Foster Family Agency conducted Thursday at the Oak Valley Community Bank. - photo by HIME ROMERO

John Coburn sat in his office in prison stripes and dialed away on the phone.

The Oak Valley Bank Senior Vice President of Commercial Accounts for the Manteca Branch was handed the stiffest sentence in the fourth annual Agape Villages Jail ‘n Bail event. He had to raise $5,000 before he was technically free of his shackles.

While it took him away from his usual day-to-day tasks for a Thursday morning, it didn’t bother Coburn in the least. He believes in the program so much that he serves on its Board of Directors.

He knew that every dollar raised went to improve the lives of children that need stability and loving care in their lives.

“I feel like they’re doing a great job meeting the needs of the kids – they place them in excellent homes,” Coburn said. “They inspect the homes on a regular basis to make sure that they’re up to par, and that’s something that kids in the system don’t get.

“It’s a great program.”

And on top of the screening process for families and the safeguards in place for the children, a variety of additional perks that those in county systems wouldn’t enjoy only enhance the quality of life of the kids once they’re placed.

According to Agape Sr. Vice President Joann Beattie, perks include scholarship programs that help put the kids into college, funding for private music lessons, additional money for prom gowns and tuxedos and registration money for athletic endeavors like football and baseball.

Beattie helped institute the programs – which she calls “her passion” – and believes that they help build confidence in the kids and gives them something positive to look forward to as they adjust to changes in their lives.

“It really helps them bond with their families and gives them some inner-confidence,” she said. “These kids have been hammered down over time, and they need things like this to build them back up.”

The goal for Thursday’s event – $10,000 – is slated to address the overall needs of the Agape program. With additional cuts from the state and a drop in overall donations, programs like the Jail ‘n Bail help provide an influx to the operating fund and keeps the wheels spinning.

All staffers have already taken a 10 percent cut in pay.

CJ Triplett, the Community Relations Director from Merrill Gardens, spent her morning making dozens of phone calls to get pledges to support the program.

Having something local that serves as an alternative to county and state programs, she said, is a great asset.

“What’s great about it is that these foster kids are ending up somewhere else than under control of the state,” she said. “It provides a great opportunity to help them with everything that they need at this point in their lives. We all need to help each other, especially right now.”