It was a day in Paradise — actually a day in hell — for Manteca pizza parlor owner Jeff Liotard.
Liotard — a Manteca Rotarian who is responsible for much of the planning and preparation of the Manteca Rotary and Sunrise Kiwanis annual Thanksgiving dinner at his restaurant — is now issuing a frantic plea to help the 40,000 plus people displaced by the Camp Fire still raging in Butte County.
“Give me your old sleeping bags, your blankets and gloves along with snow hats for the poor people in Paradise who have nothing – where it gets below freezing most nights – they have nothing,” he said. “Hopefully we will be inundated with all kinds of goodness.”
His plea for help comes from service clubs and churches in the impacted area. He is asking people to pitch in with whatever they can to help fill his truck that he will use to deliver more goods to the liaison group formed by Paradise churches where he has recently developed bonds of friendship.
Liotard is asking residents in Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop, and French Camp to drop off what they have in front of his North Main Street Mt. Mike’s Pizza restaurant anytime today between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. He will take it up to Paradise even if he has to use a “warehouse on wheels.”
In addition to asking for sleeping bags and blankets, Liotard said those trying to help fire refugees are asking for tents for the thousands of people living with their families in a Wal Mart parking lot and any other locations they have found available.
“They need everything,” he said.
Going up with a truck filled with four pallets of food from Second Harvest Food Bank as well as 80 pizzas from Mt. Mike’s on Wednesday with retired Manteca Police Chief and fellow Manteca Rotarian Charlie Halford, Liotard said he found himself in a caravan of California Highway Patrol vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed toward Paradise. He added that he saw only a few necessary porta-potties. There is a continuing urgent need for virtually everything in the area. Once in Paradise he said he was shocked with the few remaining warehouses and buildings that were filled with smoke and being used to house some of the homeless.
Liotard said he was already up in the burned-out community serving pizzas to the first responders who were very grateful.
“They will take all the soup you can give them,” he added, having already taken them hundreds of cans of soup.
“When I got home Thursday night, I felt like I had smoked an entire carton of cigarettes, having eaten so much of the smoke in the air,” adding his eyes were burning and it was difficult to breathe.
Liotard is planning another trip to the burned-out community after he finishes serving the Thanksgiving dinner next Thursday.
“Don’t be surprised if we head up there again with my crew from Thanksgiving and fix those folks a hot breakfast of eggs, pancakes and sausage,” he added. “That will be an amazing breakfast for those 5,000 people, knowing they have had a warm meal.”
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