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Kiwanis step up to help fire victims
Henry Soria hugs his daughter at the June 13 fire that engulfed their Mikesell Avenue duplex.

The Soria family that lost just about everything in a June 13 fire is the focus of an “all you can eat” benefit shrimp dinner set for Friday, Aug. 5, at the Manteca Senior Center.

Mary Ann Soria spoke on behalf of her husband Henry and their daughter Angela as she voiced their appreciation Monday afternoon to everyone that had helped them recover from their losses including a new place to live.

The Kiwanis Club of the Greater Modesto Foundation is sponsoring the dinner that is set to begin with a no-host bar at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner at 6:30. Tickets are $30 per person. They may be obtained by calling Craig Haupt at 471-4089.

Henry Soria said a friend from high school in the Bay Area, John Rodriguez, who he hadn’t seen for some 30 years, sought out his family after seeing the newspaper article on the fire and offered help.

He called the Bulletin saying, “I know that guy. How can I get a hold of him? I want to help.”

Rodriguez, who works in Manteca, had a home in Ripon that he offered to the Sorias for a temporary place to stay and where they were introduced to the Heartland Community Church family located near the city’s downtown. A couple from the church – Paul and Diane – offered a mobile home they had as a more permanent residence in Escalon.

Soria said she has continued to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness they have received from the people of Manteca, Ripon and Escalon and now the Modesto Kiwanis members.

She added that she wanted to thank Craig and Diane Haupt as well for opening their home to them along with John and Carla Rodriguez – “making us feel very welcome.”

With the dawn of the day after the fire, the family members said they didn’t know what they would have done without the essentials provided by the Red Cross along with a debit card to help in necessary purchases. The Red Cross also put the family up in a hotel room for several days.

The Manteca Fire Department Chief’s Foundation provided a gift card followed by a donation from the Heartland Community Church and Crossroads Grace Community Church.

The only one of their three daughters who was living at home, Angela, is now getting ready to return to San Francisco State University, her mother said.

Henry Soria had just been finishing his morning walk in mid-June when a neighbor yelled out that his home just north of the Manteca High athletic field was on fire. He remembers seeing the smoke billowing from his residence and ran to wake his daughter who was still asleep in her room.

After a fruitless attempt to extinguish the fire with a garden hose, Soria had entered the home and found tremendous heat and smoke in the kitchen from the garage-based blaze and was forced to retreat. His daughter was able to flee the home before the smoke enveloped her room, he said.

Firemen and neighbors brought water and watermelon to the family the day of the fire. Soria said she is so very thankful to everyone who came forward showing so much kindness. “The neighbors were wonderful – always so ready to help.” She especially referred to one neighbor named Vic who helped her sort through the soot and ashes to locate the valuable family pictures.

Firefighters had arrived in less than four minutes, Soria said.

Despite the quick emergency response Soria noted that much of the clothing that had been collected at the scene had been put into plastic bags that she would sort through later. But, she said, when she separated the clothes they were really in no condition that they could be saved.