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Yes Virginia, you can have faith in people
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Janice Milina was visited by four Manteca’s firefighters bringing Christmas gifts. She is seen getting a spirited hug from Fire Captain Steri McLeod. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Manteca firefighters triggered a few tears when they delivered Christmas gifts to one surprised senior citizen Wednesday morning outside her Almond Blossom mobile home on East Yosemite Avenue.

Janice Milina reacted with her hands cupped over her ears in shock as the firemen parked in front of her home and brought bags of gifts to her front porch.  They all got hugs from the thankful woman who said she felt an outpouring of Christmas spirit.

“I think it’s so nice – I think I’m going to cry,” she said. “This has made my day and made by whole year.”

Milina gave the firefighters a story she had written years ago all about giving and proving what goes around comes around as related to her past readiness in helping others.  They didn’t have time to read it all but it ends this way: “Please, if you get the opportunity to help someone in need, it could change their life and yours forever.”

The following is the woman’s story that she shared with firefighters:

“I was managing a friend Bryan’s check cashing store in Lodi with the temperature down to 35 degrees in the mornings. The banks had recently stopped verifying funds on checks, so I continually had to turn away large numbers of people who wanted to cash personal checks.  This one particular day it was quite busy, very chaotic with children running amok in the lobby.

“One of the cashiers called me over.  A woman named Pat stood on the other side of the barrier wall looking very rough in her dirty old clothes.  She wanted to cash two checks that were given to her for landscaping services.  One was for $125 and the other $400, both drawn on different banks and from personal accounts. 

“Banks would not cash them because her ID had expired.  I told her flat out, NO!  She had no history with us and many of the personal checks we had cashed were being returned for insufficient funds or stop payment.

“Pleading, she said she really needed to get at least the small check cashed because her daughter’s school called and said it was just too cold outside for her daughter that she really needed to start wearing a coat.  The mom said, ‘I have to buy her a coat because the sweatpants and sweat shirt just aren’t warm enough.’

“Looking down I saw 7-year-old Susie standing there peering up at me in her worn out clothes.  My heart is full right now, crying right now, thinking back on that moment as the earth once stood still for me.  My life was changed forever at that moment.  I had to keep my composure as I was fighting back the tears.  I took a chance on the small check and I told her that if I could get someone from the bank to verify the funds on the larger check I would cash it too.  But it was 5:30 and the banks were closed.

“I was really quite shaken by the situation and I hadn’t been spoiled as a child but I never went without.  I would like to think my children never went without either.  This poor woman was obviously struggling in every way to keep a roof over her head and to feed her children and to buy a coat would be a big expense for her.  We closed the business at 6:00 and I headed off to a local discount clothing store.  I bought Susie a couple of warm outfits, a jacket and I also bought Pat a few things.  Going home I started going through all my drawers and closets for Pat. I filled two big, black storage bags with clothes that were in very good shape, I had just outgrown them.  I also had a leather bomber jacket that I though she might fit into.   I put all the new clothes in gift bags and the next day Pat showed up at the business by herself.  

“She had a business card from the bank manager who verified the check for $400.  So, I cashed the check for Pat and I went outside with her telling her I didn’t want to offend her noting that I had some new things for Susie and for her along with a couple of bags of good used clothing. She started crying and said that she was in a relocation program because of domestic violence from her ex-husband.  She had just moved here and was having a difficult time finding housing and work.  She said that she was going to save the things I had bought for Susie and give them to her for Christmas so she would have something to open, but I told her to give them to her now.

“Bryan, owner of the business, said he was going to go through his two kids’ closets and see what he could come up with for them.  One of my cashiers had a couple of blankets that she was going to give to Goodwill so she would bring them in too.  Pat came back in on Friday with both her kids, including a 12-year-old son who was wearing the leather bomber jacket.  Pat met Bryan and he gave her four bags of clothes for her kids and the cashier handed her the two blankets.  Pat was overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity and said that no one had ever been so nice to her and to her children.

“A couple weeks later, on Christmas Eve morning, I was the last one at work and Pat had been there and left an envelope for me that I found on my desk with my name written on the outside with a most moving letter.  It was the best Christmas present I have ever received.  It read:

“Dear Janice, I have never written to anyone in my life, so please excuse my writing skills.  I want to thank you, the people you work with and your boss for giving from your hearts to my children and in a world that has gone so bad.  It’s very hard to even find anyone who cares.  My son wears the jacket you gave him every day.  He really needed something to keep him warm when it gets so cold in the mornings.

“Every morning he leaves for school I thank God for the kind heart he has given you.  My daughter Susie has a coat but the clothes that you bought for her make her feel so proud that she doesn’t want to cover them up with a coat.  She says, ‘Mom I’m rich like the kids at school.’

“I haven’t seen my little girl so proud and happy for the longest time. Thank you.

“Janice, in 1997 I was left for dead.  I almost died.  I really believe that God let me live because my children don’t have anyone else in the world except me.  I work almost every day at odd jobs, pay my rent and feed my kids.  It is people like you who have such giving hearts who give people like me the strength to wake up and face another day.

“We will never forget the kindness  that you have given us and we will thank God every day for placing you on this earth’

It was signed Pat.

Janice said when she finished reading the letter that she was blubbering like a baby and sent a copy to her boss and said he read it in its entirety to his entire family on Christmas Eve. 

To contact Glenn Kahl, email