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Jail & Bail helps assist struggling foster family organization
Judge Frank Guinta listens to a volunteer defendant make suggestions on what their bail should be to help raise money for the Agape Villages Foster Family Services during a Jail & Bail conducted at the Bank of Stockton on Thursday. - photo by HIME ROMERO
The shackles and the stripes that Vince Hernandez was proudly wearing inside of the lobby of Bank of Stockton Thursday wasn’t so he could stretch the mileage of his Halloween costume.

He really was locked up.

As one of the “jailbirds” in the second annual Agape Villages Foster Family Agency Jail and Bail Fundraiser, Hernandez – a Manteca City Councilman – pulled out his Rolodex and started making calls to meet the $1,000 bail that impromptu judge Frank Guinta set after bringing him in as a fugitive. Guinta was presiding over court set up in the lobby of the Bank of Stockton.

“He used to coach me more than 30 years ago, and now he’s the one with the gavel,” Hernandez said laughingly. “Instead of calling him ‘Coach’ it’s now Mr. ‘Almost Honorable’ as he stands there with the gavel.”

But while the joking back-and-forth was part of the fun of the event, the seriousness of what was being done was definitely not lost on Hernandez who sees on a regular basis how much non-profits in the community are struggling to make ends meet thanks to the elimination of government funds that at one time helped operate the programs.

“I think that having the community come out and support organizations such as Agape Villages is critical – especially in this day and age,” Hernandez said while shifting his shackled hands back-and-forth. “This is an organization that does tremendous things for children, and events like this help raise awareness that these people need the support of the community or else they’re facing some tough decisions in the future, and that, unfortunately, will ultimately end up affecting the children who go through the program.”

According to Agape Outreach Coordinator Joann Beattie, the turnout this year was slightly lower than what they had last year – something that she kind of expected with the way that the economy has started to affect local businesses and residents alike.
Some employees of Agape have already been forced to take furlough days in order to keep the budget solvent, and harder decisions might be coming in the future unless an influx of donations come in to offset the costs of running a foster child agency that right now is in the process of helping between 30 and 50 children find quality homes to grow up in.

“Any time we can get out and raise awareness about this issue is a good thing,” Beattie said. “Even if we don’t get the donations today, it lets people know what we’re out there and we can use any help that somebody wants to provide.”

Located at 123 Sycamore Avenue in Suite 201, Agape Villages accepts everything from monetary donations to volunteers – and is always looking for foster families that want to help provide for children that have no other place to go. Those interested can contact the office at 824-5365.

A holiday boutique taking place at The Emory Hall on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will also be a chance for people to get out and learn a little bit more about Agape and how they can get involved. The proceeds from the event will benefit the non-profit.