Manteca and Ripon residents opened their hearts — and their wallets — with many buying new sleeping bags and blankets as well as water and personal hygiene products to stuff an 18-wheeler truck and eight vehicles with items to help the more than 30,000 people left homeless from the devastating Butte County wildfire that is still burning.
The caravan pulled out of the Mt. Mike’s Pizza parking lot Tuesday at 7 a.m. to head north to the Paradise-Chico area where many fire refugees have been forced to either sleep outside or make do in impromptu shelters that are drafty and lack amenities for more than a week
The four-day drive that generated the donations was led by Jeff and Tevani Liotard along with retired Manteca Police Chief Charlie Halford. Jeff Liotard and Halford delivered four pallets of food from the Second Harvest Food Bank as well as 80 pizzas last week. After seeing the devastation first-hand and the critical shortages at shelters, they decided to organize a second and larger caravan.
George Perry & Sons provided the 18-wheeler and the driver, the Liotards provided five Mt. Mike’s Pizza vans, and others two SUVs as well as a van and trailer that were all filled to the brim. What they carried — blankets, tents, jackets, shoes, pillows, water, food, hygiene product and more came from Manteca and Ripon residents who provided a steady flow of donations from Friday through Monday.
First stop for the caravan was to be meet with the California Highway Patrol to gain access to the fire zones where shelters have been established. Liotard had already made contact with church pastors and other community leaders to let them know they were returning with more supplies. He had already met with the CHP on his last trip.
The caravan drivers included Jaslynn Liotard, Jenny McElvain, Veronica Acosta, Freddie Perez, Don Laurenti, Luis De La Cruz driving truck for Perry & Sons, Ed Ross, Kenny Dodd and Trish Were, as well as Jeff and Tevani Liotard.
All the drivers had the properly prescribed masks they should be wearing to protect their lungs from the smoke in the area. Many of those driving had already been involved in the collection of donations this past week in front of the North Main Street pizza parlor that saw a total of 53 stuffed pallet containers loaded into the semi-trailer.
It included 209 coats and jackets that were collected by a Ripon couple.
Those working Saturday to stuff those boxes included members of the STARS volunteers from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office personally sent by retiring Sheriff Steve Moore. Cadets from the Manteca Police Explorers were also on hand doing their part as were representatives from several churches.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.