A team of Santa’s helpers – Manteca Police and other city workers – brought their own children with them to the Manteca Target store Sunday morning to shop for youngsters who might otherwise not have much of a Christmas.
The Manteca Police Officers Association (MPOA) members, headed by Officer Stephen Schluer, his wife Thaera and their children Lela, 8, and Collins, 6, commandeered the familiar red shopping carts with Christmas wish lists in hand for 25 children from homeless and low income families. The names were collected by the Manteca Unified School District Health Department and coordinated through the Manteca Soroptimist Club.
The MPOA had $3,000 in shopping funds they earned from manning a Fourth of July fireworks booth. The MPOA has given back more than $5,000 to the community so far this year.
Shoppers were budgeted to spend about $125 on each boy and girl on the lists, but a number of them dipped deeper into their own pockets to purchase exactly what the child had said they wanted. Schluer was overwhelmed by one of his boys, who had asked for a BMX bicycle, and decided to pay for it with his own money.
Detective Schluer explained that 40 percent of the net from the booth goes to the city to pay for next year’s aerial fireworks show. The remaining 60 percent goes to the POA to be returned to the community through such means as the Manteca Boys & Girls Club, Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless and miscellaneous donations requested by letters.
From the total $5,800 from the fireworks, $1,000 specifically went to the Boys & Girls Club, Sober Grad events were granted $250 each, leaving the remaining $3,000 for Christmas gifts.
When the shopping concluded many of the officers wrapped their gifts in the store’s food court with others using gift bags and bows. Those who had the time Sunday delivered the gifts personally to the kids while others are playing Santa later in the week.
Detective Mike Keener and his wife Cheryl were buying for four children – all from one family. Ages were from five to 18. Like many of the other children, they asked for food before listing Raiders’ jerseys, 49ers stuff, and their need for everyday clothes.
Their 12-year-old girl specifically asked for food and a heater in addition to clothing. Her 8-year-old sister was asking for a jacket and shoes and Pet Shop toys.
Aimee Rubio from the city’s Finance Department and friend Lisa Goodwin brought three young Brownie members from Troop 1698 to help them in their shopping. The young shoppers were Marly Goodwin, Courtney Washburn and Araceli Rubio – all 7 years old.
Senior Detective Bill Walmer and his wife Jennifer had their two sons, Zane, 7, and Zachery, 6, helping them go through the Target Store to select just the right presents found on their two wish lists. One was for a boy, 14, and the other was for a girl, 17, who together had asked for model cars, baseball cards, shoes, clothes and art supplies.
Officer Shawn Cavin and his high school daughter, Marissa, were a shopping team of their own, having a 16-year-old boy with several gifts on his wish list.
Cavin said that this year the MPOA had the benefit of phone numbers, so he called the boy’s mom and confirmed the sizes of the clothes her son had asked to receive for Christmas.
Detective Sergeant Chris Mraz and his wife Kelly had drawn three children to seek out their requested gifts. They had a 14-year-old girl who had asked for a special book, clothing and a blanket. The 11-year-old boy wanted cars and books, while an 8-year-old girl was hoping for dolls.
As she was pushing her cart off into the electronics’ department, Kelly Mraz hurriedly quipped, “We’re currently in search of some quality headphones.”
Another shopper, Officer Bryan Holland, had three of his children with him on his shopping trip: Reed, 7, Alana, 11, and Kiley, 9. “I’m trying to get them focused on shopping for other children and not what they want for themselves,” he said.
Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion, wife Sallie and daughters Ann Marie and Ariel had chosen four children and their wish lists. They included a boy, 13, who asked for food, clothing and shoes in that order. A 9-year-old boy asked for pizza and a 16-year-old girl was hoping for a makeup kit along with food and clothes. The chief had picked the wish list of a 12-year-old boy asking for a chess set – a request that impressed him. All of the kids had hoped they might possibly get bikes for Christmas as well, but regrettably that was not in the budget.
Manteca High School Resource Officer April Smith couldn’t bear to miss this year’s shopping trip as she walked slowly through the store with her mother at her side. She just had to do her part even though she is expecting her first child within the week.
The shoppers finally all made their way through the checkstand where their purchases were totaled and the MPOA president wrote out a first check for $2,000. A second check followed for the balance of their gifts for Santa’s bag that they helped deliver.