“Hey I remember you!” shrieked the girl of about five as she worked her way down the line with a plate of eggs and ham.
“Oh yeah, where from?” the man barked back just as quickly, his spatula turning over the Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes cooking on the grill in front of him.
She looked puzzled. But the man that she was going back-and-forth with was Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion, and it was probably one of the community outreach programs or appearances that he makes at schools or sites like the Boys and Girls Club to encourage healthy choices.
While one would think that the appearances and the giving back would start to run together after a while, Obligacion proved otherwise – representing the Manteca Noon Rotary and the City of Manteca with not only a smile but an attitude befitting somebody in his position.
It was just a part of giving back.
“How many kids here want pancakes?” he asked the line. It erupted. “That’s why I do this – right there. And as the Police Chief, getting to be here bridges that gap between kids and the PD and a regular citizen I get to give back.
“You get a thank you from every kid and a smile and you can’t beat that.”
Down at the end of the tables Shawn Briscoe sat with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other. He wore a large smile for a 14-year-old that was eating a late breakfast with a group of kids much younger than he – the product of getting to enjoy a late breakfast without having to cook it or pay for it.
But as an avid club-goer, the meal was just a perk.
“I’ve been coming down here for three years and I have to say that I love it – there’s no doubt that some of these little kids can be annoying sometimes but that’s what you have the teen room for. You can get away in there,” said the Antioch native. “I didn’t expect this today. It’s nice – I like the pancakes.”
The free meal – which came as a supplement to the kids since the summertime free lunch program ended – was a gift of the Manteca Noon Rotary when they realized that they had a fair amount of pancake mix and other items left over from their annual Super Bowl omelet breakfast.
According to Rotarian Jeff Liotard, a trip to the store to buy more eggs and supplement the existing supply made it possible to feed more than 100 kids and 20 more staff members and volunteers.
“We had a bunch of this stuff and thought – ‘Why not bring it down here for the kids?’” Liotard asked. “You’re seeing a lot of smiles and a lot of laughs and that’s what you do this for.”