Santa is getting new digs.
When the Manteca Twilight Holiday Parade comes to town the first Saturday of December, he’ll be showing off the new workshop to the entire community – the good people that helped turn what was once a spitball idea into something that will serve the parents and grandparents that have been bringing their children to the corner of Yosemite Ave. and Main Street for generations.
Jennifer Munoz will be riding in that new home.
The Manteca mother played a pivotal role in helping shape that idea into something tangible – using technology and the goodwill of people of raise the money needed to replace what was essentially a condemned shack.
And to this day she still doesn’t quite know what moved her to take on such a commitment.
Call it being moved by the spirit of the holidays. Call it being motivated by the good cheer of those around her.
Whatever it was, when Munoz visited the downtown home of Manteca’s Santa Claus – also known as Ben Jetton – she couldn’t believe the state of disrepair it had fallen into.
Wood was rotting. The frame looked like it was about to slip off of the trailer.
And while most parents have long since abandoned the idea of bringing their children downtown for the crush of the big city shopping mall or the big box retailer that offers up a winter wonderland in order to usher people through the door, Munoz – a relative newcomer to Manteca – felt something when she first walked through that parking lot.
A sense of nostalgia. A flashback. A Norman Rockwell-esque scene that fit in perfectly with the small town that she chose to raise her children in.
So when she learned that Jetton had already put the wheels in motion to get a new home – literally, he had already secured a new trailer – she jumped at the opportunity to lend a hand however she could.
Now, nearly 11 months after she first committed to the project, she has helped line-up a new roof for the building, community donations to cover the cost of building supplies and a stereo system that will play the soothing and welcoming sounds of Christmas music for those who come down to Santa’s fresh dwelling.
“The outpouring of support has been amazing. People who used to come down as kids and are now bringing their kids reached out because they wanted to help,” Munoz said. “I didn’t expect this to be as big as it was when I first started. But the community has made this something special, and right now we’re just looking to put the finishing touches together – those last nuts-and-bolts – before it’s unveiled at the Christmas parade.”
Thanks to the advent of crowdfunding sites, Munoz has been able to use the internet as her main fundraising tool – posting messages to Facebook in an attempt to drive traffic to sites like GiveForward.com, which accepts donations for any cause that somebody elects to setup and manage.
She has taken meticulous notes. The bank account that was setup is in both her and Jetton’s names, and they meet twice a month to go over receipts and create a checks-and-balances system to ensure transparency.
After hitting her initial goal, Munoz is now asking the public for $1,200 to cover the remaining costs in the two months that are left before the Christmas holiday.
The changes that are in store, she said, will change the way that people experience Santa Claus and bring back an era when venturing downtown for the holidays is once again chic.
“One of the things that the last hut didn’t have was a wheelchair ramp so for kids with disabilities it was very difficult for them to get up the stairs. This new hut will have a ramp,” Munoz said. “It’ll also have a trap door so Santa can sneak out and behind any children who aren’t okay with getting their picture taken – that way they never even know that he’s there.
“It’s something that I think people are going to enjoy. And they helped make it what it is.”
To donate to the cause visit www.giveforward.com and search for “Ben Jetton” in the subject line. That will bring up the campaign and all of the information necessary.