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Miss Manteca makes Christmas possible for homeless families
Miss Manteca 2020 Sydnee Navarro provided Christmas gifts Tuesday for 21 families at HOPE Family Shelter for her annual Giving Tree Project.

At age 11, Miss Manteca 2020 Sydnee Navarro recalled taking notice of a newspaper story about the homeless student population in the Manteca Unified School District.

She wanted to do her part to provide for others, turning to her involvement with Manteca Youth Focus by doing her Community Advocacy Project on the Giving Tree for the holidays.

For past seven years, Navarro, 17, placed her Giving Tree in the lobby of a local business in an effort to provide “gift wishes” to homeless families living in local shelters.

The  unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic forced changes.

She adapted, turning to social media to seek out donors to help out children and families at HOPE Family Shelter, an emergency shelter in Manteca servicing families who have been displaced for up to 60 to 90 days.

“Ninety-five percent of the employees are now working remotely – rather than cancel this event, I reaching out to our family and friends for help,” said Navarro in her Nov. 27 Facebook post.

The response was overwhelming for the Manteca High senior.

In just a matter of days, she posted: “In the history of this project this has never happened so quickly. Because of the generous sponsors and donors, all 90 children and parents (at HOPE Family Shelter) will receive gifts this holiday season. Truly a blessing in a year of challenges.”

Fast forward to Tuesday. Navarro along with her parents and those at the Raymus House including HOPE Ministries, Inc. CEO Cecily Ballungay and staffers at the local shelter.

Her mother Jane Navarro indicated that, all told, 21 families (83 parents and children) received gifts on this special holiday occasion.

In addition, her daughter’s endeavor made possible $500 in monetary donations – earmarked to back towards HOPE Ministries’ general fund, Ballungay said – made possible by various fundraisers and cash donations.

Sydnee Navarro’s plans after graduation is attending a four-year college. She’s hoping to attend Santa Clara University in the fall.

Navarro, who is also ASB Vice President and a member of varsity girls’ volleyball team at MHS, will be moving on with the wish that the Giving Tree project will continue on, providing happiness to others during the holidays.

For the past seven years, her efforts to help the less fortunate have collectively made possible gifts for some 438 parents and their children along with about $2,000 in donations.