Smiles were the order of the day Saturday afternoon when members of the non-sworn Manteca Police Employees Association (MPEA) put some spirit into the hearts of children who might otherwise not have had much under the tree – if there was even a tree.
Police Dispatcher Marcie Jones was the sparkplug in the organization who was responsible for much of the planning and shopping as well with fellow dispatcher Dave Jones, Kim Thomas and Cecelia Liles.
The group set out from the Manteca Police Department’s parking lot about noon with a caravan of cars following a single black and white police car. Their first stop was on East Alameda Street where children were in shock by their arrival and the presentation of the unexpected gifts.
Next they drove to the 300 block of South Powers Avenue where there were four children who hesitated coming out of the house, apparently not knowing why there was a police car in their driveway and strangers coming toward their house with armloads of packages. Three bicycles were also delivered to children at that house.
Their mom was standing by the front door in disbelief. As Santa watched, one of the volunteers handed her a box of groceries as tears began to stream down her face.
The third stop was the low cost Rose Motel on Moffat Boulevard where police knew three children lived – two young girls and an older brother – who had formerly been homeless. As Santa gave them hugs, volunteers walked up with more armloads of presents that brought smiles and excitement to their faces.
The last place to visit was the Sleepy Hollow Trailer Court at the corner of Moffat Boulevard and South Lincoln Avenue. As the police car entered the center of the trailer park and the siren screamed, a dozen children came out of nowhere hearing that Santa had just arrived.
And arrive he did in style, greeting the young boys and girls who were mostly 10 and under. Santa had presents marked specifically for boys and for girls in the trunk of the police car. At least two gifts went to each child with Santa ultimately getting a bear hug from many of them at the same time.
One boy was in a trailer sick in bed, and a neighbor offered to take a present inside to him – hoping it might make him feel better.
The wife of a police officer, Margaret Kelly, brought homemade sugar cookies for all the children as well. Dispatcher Kim Thomas took the shift of organizer Marcie Jones so she could be part of the gift-giving effort she had started. Kim and dispatcher Cecelia Liles shared shopping duties with Jones. It was a coordinated effort by many people at the department, Thomas said.
Another dispatcher Pam Takahashi brought two of her children with her to help hand out the gifts.
Asked why she had organized the event, Miller said she had seen many families in poverty as she was growing up in San Francisco. She wanted to make a difference, and with her peers and friends, she did just that.
Two of those friends who are not connected with the police department, Shae Porter and Relda Franke, each bought bikes out of their own pockets for two of the children along with the necessary helmets.
The MPEA used about $500 to purchase the gifts in addition to $300 coming from personal funds.