Dotty Thompson walked up to Wayne DeLaughder – a young man who is father to a week-old son – and quietly placed some cash into his hands.
“God bless you,” she said. “I also have a bag of food for you.”
The two hadn’t met until the day before. What brought them together – plus literally hundreds of other Manteca residents – was a criminal act that left DeLaughder’s young family as well as neighbor Lorena Cisneros and her two young sons homeless and without any personal belongings.
Two suspected robbers fleeing from Bank of America broke into the duplex the two families rented on Thursday while fleeing police. They stayed there for close to 11 hours refusing every effort by law enforcement to get them to surrender until 17 canisters of tear gas finally flushed one of them out while the last one was forced to give-up with a little persuasion from police dog Gage.
It’ll take weeks before the duplex is ready to live in again. That is just part of the two young families’ problem. While both are still looking for a place they can move into, each family lost everything – furniture, clothing, food, linens, toiletries, and toys. The tear gas residue lingers and makes its way into porous items. All one had to do was walk close by the duplex just four days after the incident and understand the problem.
Thompson was just one of dozens of Manteca residents who showed up along with police personnel, their families, and volunteers who assist peace officers in Manteca. They opened their wallets and hearts to help the families get started again.
Others made their way to Ladybugs Quilts on North Main Street to lend a helping hand by donating enough clothes, toys, linen, toiletries, food, and other household items including baby needs to fill five pick-up trucks. Many have also donated gift cards and cash.
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Furniture is also on its way through the efforts of Calvary Baptist Church where Manteca Police officer Shawn Cavin worships. It was Cavin who – once the last suspect had been captured – set in motion some of the effort to help the families who were innocent victims of Thursday’s bank robbery.
“We appreciate it a lot,” DeLaughder said of the community’s generosity as his fiancé Gabby Rodriguez and son Nicholi stood on the front lawn of the boarded up duplex surrounded by well-wishers.
A few feet away, two young boys stepped forward and handed Lorena Cisneros’ sons Rodolfo, 6, and Ivan 2, each a gift bag with toys inside.
Lin Silverman – who also volunteers with the Community Emergency Response Team – along with her husband dug into their own pockets to help the two families.
“I understand how tough it can be being a single mom,” Silverman said. “I was one for four years. (Losing all of your furniture and personal items) is just horrific.”
Manteca Police spokesman Rex Osborn noted before the presentations began that while the officers and support groups that were on the scene Thursday couldn’t help rebuild the structure they could help the families rebuild their lives.
“This is (happening) because the people of Manteca are coming together to help as a community,” Osborn said.
The Manteca Police Officers Association got things rolling by presenting each family with $500. The Manteca Police Employees Association comprised of dispatchers, community service officers, and support personnel added another $200 for each family plus pairs of movie tickets.
The CERT volunteers - who helped with logistics Thursday as did the Police Explorers – provided Wal-Mart gift cards and beauty items for the two mothers. The Explorers presented Target gift cards.
The Ripon Police Officers Association – who had several officers at the scene Thursday – provided $310. Several kids and adults stepped up to add gift cards as well. Mt. Mike’s Pizza donated certificates for pizzas. The Manteca-Ripon SWAT team also gave $350 to each family.
Ladybug’s Quilts owner Jennifer Dancy who is coordinating a donation drive noted that losing everything and starting from scratch is a daunting task.
Her store at 1236 N. Main St. Suite A is still accepting items for the families. They are open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Dancy said the families’ most pressing need is finding a “reasonably priced” rental. She asked anyone who may have a rental to contact her via her cell at 345-4756 and she’ll put them in touch with the families.
Understanding that it will take thousands of dollars for the families to get back on their feet, others are also stepping forward. Girls Scout Troop 669 has contacted other Girls Scout organizations in the area to secure donations as well.
Big Papa Joe’s BBQ at 123 E. Alameda St is donating 50 percent of all of their proceeds from any sales Wednesday to the families.
“Manteca is such a humble town,” Thompson, who moved to Manteca five years ago, said. I’ve never seen a town with so many charities willing to help people.”
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail email@example.com