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Lunch serves as thank-you gesture for 1st responders
Manteca Police Officers Shawn Cavin and Marnix Lub enjoy a lunch at the Patriot Day luncheon for Manteca Fire and Police Departments, Emergency Medical Personnel and all city employees presented by The Place of Refuge Church. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

It didn’t take Mike Dillman long to find the words.

A Vietnam Veteran, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice has been a major part of his life for more than four decades.

So when he was talking about the annual luncheon that his Place of Refuge Church hosts for local emergency services personnel and municipal service workers on Patriot Day every year – this being the 11th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Flight 93 crash in Shanksville, PA – his respect and his gratitude came quickly.

“We feel that on that day – on 9/11 – civil servants were pressed into action, and we’ve come to understand, that even though they were doing what they do, they were called upon to aid the wounded and comfort the hurting and aid those who needed it,” Dillman said. “They became veterans in every sense of the word. It really changed my mind about what a veteran could be.

“They’re the heartbeat of our city and we can’t not do this. It’s the least that we can do.”

The event itself took roughly 60 volunteers to pull off. At least a third of them were from the college intern program where students put in work at the church towards their ministry training.

Having the extra help allowed Dillman to float around and personally thank each and every one of the people in attendance. He also told the story of Jenavieve Flores – a student at Joshua Cowell that aimed to make a difference by helping those that serve.

According to school Principal Bonnie Bennett, Flores initially said she wanted to do something to help seniors, police officers, firefighters and soliders. After settling on the latter began her undertaking with a $20 bill in an envelope and a drive at the school to fill boxes that would be donated to the Cpl. Charles Palmer II Memorial troop donation program that sends boxes to those serving overseas.

Donations began to flow in, and according to Charles Palmer Sr., as many as 50 boxes worth of supplies came out of her efforts.

“People love it when the kids get involved because it’s a history lesson and it teaches them that freedom isn’t free,” Palmer said. “And this marvelous little girl has generated an overwhelming response out there. I was blown away when I learned about it. It’s really going to help a lot of troops out.”