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Place of Refuge thanks city staff & 1st responders
The Place of Refuge Pastor Mike Dillman sings Happy Birthday to Mayor Willie Weatherford, who was presented with a plaque for nearly 50 years of dedicated service to the people of Manteca. Weatherford was the onetime Chief of Police and has spent the last 18 years as a member of the Manteca City Council in one form or another including three full-terms as Mayor. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

They came in waves. 

A fire engine company here. A team of road workers there.

But by the time they all took their seat in the grassy park area behind City Hall, everybody was equal – all civil servants being honored on a day when civil servants put aside their personal safety and concerns for the sake of saving others in need. 

For the ninth year, Pastor Mike Dillman and a team of his volunteers at The Place of Refuge on Button Avenue held a luncheon for Manteca’s first responders and civic employees as a way to say thanks for not only the hard work that they do throughout the year, but what they would do if something drastic like what happened in New York City 13 years ago. 

“Anybody that worked in a civic capacity was pressed into service on that day, and they worked tirelessly rescuing people and saving lives and helping in any way they possibly could. It wasn’t just the police and firefighters but the street sweepers and the parks workers as well,” Dillman said. “That’s what this is about – saying thank you to the people in our community that would do the same thing in the same circumstance.

“They’d be there in a heartbeat, and we just want to say thank you to them for that.”

More than a hundred people ended up gathering under the temporary tent that Dillman’s team of volunteers set-up in the park area behind the Manteca Police Department – offering those who work for the city a barbecue dinner from Famous Dave’s in Tracy. 

 Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters and his crew were there. So was Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion and his officers. 

And if you asked City Manager Karen McLaughlin – who made it a point to note that she wasn’t saying anything with the intent of being disrespectful to the first responders who were present – Dillman’s idea to include all municipal workers was right on target. 

“The fact that somebody would think about doing something like this is touching and it shows that there are people in the community that are willing to support our employees and the services they provide,” McLaughlin said. “This isn’t a holiday that anybody wants to be out celebrating – we all wish that we didn’t have to be here today. But at the same time we’re also really appreciative to Pastor Dillman and his church for everything that they’ve done over the years.”