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Party helps raise $16K for family shelters
Carol Davis chats with other guests. - photo by HIME ROMERO
It was arguably the most charitable gathering of the summer.

As the cool Delta breezes rustled through the almond orchards surrounding Toni Raymus and husband Andrew Sephos’ rural Manteca home Wednesday evening, many of the 133 people who paid $125 a ticket were enjoying finger food, country music, and conversation.

The “Summer Hoe Down” raised at least $16,625 for HOPE Ministries and the three family shelters that the faith-based organization operates in Manteca.

It is a significant boost from last year when 100 tickets were sold to raise $12,500.

It also bucks a national trend reported earlier this month by Giving USA Foundation that charitable giving was down nationally by 3.6 percent.

While that pleased Bob Raymus - who along with his wife Laurie co-hosted the gathering - it isn’t what really impressed the home builder who has devoted the past eight years to helping HOPE Ministries succeed.

“We are grateful for all donations but what really gets you is when people who’ve been helped by the shelter (and get back on their feet) send you $5,” Raymus said.

He added that a recent work party with members of Calvary Community Church to repair and paint apartments of the family shelter on West Yosemite Avenue included a mother and a daughter that had once stayed there.

Raymus’ involvement started when his late father Antone Raymus bought a former nursing home on Union Road eight years ago and turned it over to HOPE Ministries for a dollar a year to use as a single mother shelter.

Although he is involved in a number of non-profits, Raymus said he has made HOPE Ministries his No. 1 charity in terms of his support both financially, time, and with hands-on work. He noted that he is just carrying on what his father started.

“I feel fortunate that my dad got me involved with HOPE Ministries,” Raymus said.

Hope Ministries Executive Director Dave Thompson said, “it never stops amazing me about how giving people in Manteca are.”

Thompson said it isn’t unusual to get small donations in the mail ranging from $5 to $20 from people who once had been served by the shelter.

Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford, who was among those attending, pointed out that the most charitable segment of society “are those who qualify for Social Security.” Weatherford said they understand what it is like to be in need of a helping hand.

HOPE Ministries’ approach of not providing what Thompson called “just a big box” with a roof over it to stay for two months is a reason why the organization has been so successful.

Most of those who end up completing two months in the shelters end up being able to stand on their own two feet. Thompson said HOPE Shelters’ 60 to 65 percent success rate is due to the programs and assistance those staying there get in terms of how to better manage their finances and lives.

Staff and service cutbacks have allowed the shelter to get by with a $160,000 budget - $40,000 less than last year’s amount. HOPE no longer receives state money and is having their federal assistance pared back $26,000 to $22,000.

Since the doors of their first shelter opened in 1992 Hope Shelters have assisted more than 2,000 families get back on their feet.

For more information or to help with donations of money or items, call 824-0658.