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Making Christmas happen for a struggling family
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The Manteca City Finance Department staff  stepped up to provide a family of six along with two senior citizens – a 98-year-old woman and a man also in his 90s — with Christmas presents.
The family had moved from San Jose to Manteca four months ago in hope of finding a lower cost of living 50 they could better provide for their young family in a safer and friendlier environment.
Sixteen members of the city department decided to go together and provide gifts for the children and  parents with the family only knowing that they had an anonymous “Secret Santa” who would be surprising them this afternoon at their home off Mission Ridge Drive in south central Manteca.  The Finance Department had learned of the need from talking to staffers at the Second Harvest Food Bank.
The story of the family’s move to Manteca began with the mom, Raquel, 32, walking from her home west of South Main Street with her 3-year-old in his wagon.  They walked almost two miles to the front door of Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca’s Industrial Park out of her frustration.  There she met with Jessica Vaughan who explained the food bank was only a food distribution center for churches in the area and served multiple other counties and could not help her with her need directly.
The family’s refrigerator was bare and she had lost her job.  Her old Dodge Ram pickup with 180,000 miles was on its last legs.
The staff at the food bank said the mother literally broke down in their office, sharing her story of her  family’s plight after their move had taken a terrible turn for the worse, struggling to make ends meet with only one income. The loss of her paycheck had made it next to impossible to support their family, she said.
Vaughan made some phone calls after hearing the woman’s heart-breaking story. That led others in the community to the woman’s home with more food than she had ever expected to receive.  Her kitchen was full for the first time in weeks, she added.  Raquel also learned that in the future she could possibly rely for help on the St. Vincent DePaul’s kitchen pantry at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and at the Calvary Community Church on Lathrop Road.
While her husband, Robert, 36, was commuting and working in construction in the Bay Area, Raquel was pretty much locked into her home without wheels since her pickup truck was inoperable. She has been looking for work but has been unsuccessful in finding an administrative assistant position in or around Manteca.
The couple told also of going to Marty’s Christmas tree lot in Manteca looking for a tree for the children.  Having a high vaulted cathedral ceiling in their Manteca home, she said they had never had anything taller than a tree five foot high.  She said they found a beautiful tree measuring about 18-foot-high that was priced at $160 – much more than they could afford.
The children fell in love with the tree and the salesman cut the price in half to $80 – still too much money for them but Robert went to the bank to get the money for the kids’ sake.    When he attempted to pay the salesman, he was given $40 back and told to go buy something for the children with that money.
They pretty much had nothing to put under the tree – that is until the women of the city’s Finance Department drop off their well-wrapped packages this afternoon with a hearty “Merry Christmas!” 
They have left the tags on the gifts blank so the parents can decide if they came from Santa or someone else who wanted them to have the merriest Christmas ever – writing in their “from” selections.
The women behind the effort include Suzanne Mallory, Tracie Madison, Jeri Tejeda, Leila Menor, Georgia Lantsberger, Sara Cowell Amber Shipman, Melody Wilson, Melissa Munoz, Cristina Caguiat, Cindy Hathaway, Vicki Candido, Emily Bettencourt, Portia Sandoval, Jessica George, Nicole Boswell and Heather Candido.
When hearing of the family’s needs and their inoperative pickup truck Tuesday night, Phil Waterford, owner of Manteca Ford said he would take care of the mechanical problems to give the mother her wheels back for Christmas.
The staffers at the Second Harvest Food Bank, like CEO Mike Mallory and Jessica Vaughan, were also smiling at the end of the day for their part in telling of the need of the family. And, of course, Marty’s Christmas tree lot went the extra mile to guarantee a Merry Christmas for the family.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email