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Manteca Police play Santa for 80 kids
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Detective Sergeant Lewis Clark, his wife Paula and their 19-year-old son Arthur were finding just the right gifts for three girls from one to 10 years old. The children had asked for clothes, books, an art set, and one toy. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Once again the Manteca Police Officers Association has stepped up to the plate making sure some 80 children have presents for Christmas.

Officers and family members converged on the Manteca Target Store at 10 a.m. Saturday with gift wish scrolls in their hands buying mostly clothes, shoes, food and a few toys.  Children who were nominated and chosen came from families with incomes of less than $1,000 a month or $12,000 a year.

Community-wide over 500 children have been helped this Christmas through the efforts of the Manteca Unified School District, the Soroptimist Club, Manteca Rotary and through the chaplains at the Manteca Police Department.
The Manteca Police Officers Association spent nearly $4,000 Saturday. It is money the officers had netted from their July 4th fireworks booth sales.  The group did not have to face this week’s selection lottery that chose 14 non-profit groups in the community that could have fireworks booths next year as the police department is exempt from that process.

As the shoppers were beginning to head down the aisles with their lists in hand, two on-duty patrolmen came through the front door to join fellow officers in the shopping effort.  Their stay was short as they both received radio calls for service.

Manteca High school resource officer April Smith – a little sleepy – but she was there shopping just having worked 24 hours straight patrol duty.  Smith even brought her parents Mike and Carol with her as they were visiting from Iowa.  With a passion for children it was important for her to be part of the action.

Some officers were in uniforms – others were not, but they all shared the same Yule spirit.  They reflected the feeling that their children were not going without and they wanted to help those who would have been without this Christmas.

Lt. Nick Obligacion was there for the fourth year in a row with his wife Sallie and daughters Ariel and Annmarie – a recent college graduate.  The family has been faithful to the cause every Christmas.

Obligacion was looking for a “Dora Explorer” that a young girl had put on her wish list.  

“That was something new to me!” he quipped.  They were buying for two girls and a boy between 4 and 8 years old.

Sierra High School resource Officer Eva Steele was shopping with her 3-year-old son Hunter.  As Hunter held the lists for four children, like he knew what he was reading, his mom whisked through the aisles finding every gift that had been noted.

One of the 12 officers who had lost their jobs last year, Allen Shipperd, who recently filled a vacant community service officer’s slot found a bike that he couldn’t resist.  The price went over the $50 limits the shoppers could spend, but he made up the difference out of his pocket. It was for a little girl.

Other officers were seen getting caught up in the thrill of buying gifts for kids who they knew had little they could expect in their stocking or would find under their trees.  They too reached deeply into their wallets and added to the $50 purchase limit of the police officers’ association.

Ariel and Annmarie Obligacion had added four other children to their lists aged from 2 to 10.  Into their basket went clothes, food, blankets and Legos – what the kids had said they needed.  Toys apparently were not of primary importance this Christmas.

Officer Jason Hensley and his wife Heidi along with sons Jonah, 8, and L.J., 14, were buying gifts for a 9-year-old boy who had asked for pants, a shirt, art supplies and a skate board.  Hensley head a crew of 13 chaplains assigned to the Manteca department – his wife Heidi is one of those 13.

Officer George Crowley, his wife Tracy and daughter Rachael purchased gifts for three children 10 through 13.  They picked up an MP-3, books and music.  Motorcycle officer Patrick Danipour was manning the check stand waiting for officers to check out, but his wife Kerri and daughter Marissa were working the aisles looking for presents for three girls and a boy aged one through 17.

The Danipours bought clothes and shoes for the older children and toys for the little toddler with dad ready to write the check to Target when the last family moved through the check-out line.  Target gave the officers a 10 percent discount for their baskets filled with gift items for Santa to deliver.