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Miss Young Manteca helps deliver Christmas for shelters
HOPE Family Shelter Director, Cecily Ballungay, left, is thrilled to accept the gifts collected by Sydnee Navarro, Miss Young Manteca. This Christmas, 14 families including 57 children and adults staying at the shelters had these gifts under their tree. - photo by Photo Contributed

Dear Cecily,

Over the past few months, I have been making and selling loom bracelets to raise money for both the Hope Family Shelter and the Raymus House. Today, I am proud to present you with a check in the amount of $200.

In addition, I am delivering to you today the gifts that were collected as part of my Giving Tree Project. The gifts were generously donated by the wonderful employees of Delta Health Systems, Siegfried Engineering, Stockton Hearing & Speech Center and ACT Appraisal of Stockton. I am so excited that a total of 14 families, including 57 children and parents, will have gifts under the tree this holiday season!

Thank you so much for the opportunity to help the shelters. It has been such a rewarding experience. I will be in contact with you for future volunteer projects.”


Sydnee Navarro

Miss Young Manteca 


Santa had help this holiday season in the form of 11-year-old – Sydnee Navarro, a student at Walter Woodward Elementary School, and the reigning Miss Young Manteca.

Sydnee was inspired to be Santa’s helper this year after learning about the significant number of families with children who were homeless in our community. She researched the local homeless resources in the community and learned that the Raymus House and Hope Family Shelter provided housing and assistance for families in need. 

After contacting the shelter director, Cecily Ballungay, and determining how to best serve these families, Sydnee came up with the idea to use her hobby to help benefit the organization. Navarro began making dozens and dozens of “loom” friendship-style bracelets, selling them at her parents’ garage sale and even at her family reunion this summer. She was able to raise $200 which she donated directly to the organization. 

She decided to keep her project going and growing so she asked her parents if they would let her set up a ‘giving tree’ with tags that listed the age and gender of the families staying at the shelter to ask their coworkers to help purchase gifts to give for Christmas. She was able to set up a tree in four businesses and collect presents for over four dozen children and family members currently staying at the shelter this holiday season.

 “I am so lucky to live in a nice, safe home with my family, Navarro said. “I can’t imagine what it must be like for these families to not have a home of their own, especially at Christmas.” 

As the winner of the 2014 Manteca Youth Focus Scholarship Competition in the 10-12 age division, Sydnee earned a $200 educational scholarship and has spent the past year attending parades and community events to promote MYF, the local non-profit youth scholarship program. Each of the participants in the MYF Scholarship Competitions receiving leadership training and are encouraged to create a “community advocacy project” that they would like to implement in the coming year. 

In 2014 more than a dozen projects have been completed by MYF scholarship recipients  which benefitted a variety of charitable organizations including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Samaritan’s Purse International, National Cleft Palate Foundation, Children’s Hospital of Oakland and Great Valley Academy as well as causes such as childhood obesity, bullying, homelessness and literacy. 

“Sydnee is a wonderful role model for all of us,” said MYF Director Shim Lacy, “She reminds that no matter our age, each one of us can make a meaningful impact on the lives of others. On behalf of the Board of Directors, we commend Sydnee for her dedication and service to those who most deserving.”

MYF is preparing to kick of the 2015 competition season and is actively seeking young people between the ages of 10 and 20 who would like to earn scholarships and participate in the program. Information meetings are scheduled Jan. 12 and 15. They will take place at 7 p.m. at Leonard Photography in Manteca. For more information on Manteca Youth Focus scholarships and programs visit or contact Shim Lacy at 209.518.3915 or email