There’s something magical about the Manteca Soroptimists’ Holiday Affair.
It’s not the festive transformation of the Bank of Stockton, the pleasant conversations, stylish holiday dress, tempting food or even the $2,000 top drawing prize.
The Manteca tradition that marked its 36th year Wednesday and staged by a small hardworking group of 20 women is what gave life to a guiding star in 1987 that has helped countless Manteca-Lathrop teens find the way to escape dark places in their hearts and souls.
It was 28 years ago that a cluster of teen suicides rocked the community. Four promising lives ended in a suicide pact.
The Soroptimists — a collection of business and professional women brought together by the drive to serve the community — stepped up. They made a significant donation to help Manteca Unified secure on-campus counselors from Valley Community Counseling Services.
Support of teen crisis counseling in Manteca schools has become the club’s marquee project. To date, they have contributed more than $320,000 to the effort. It has paid dividends in keeping teens from losing their lives when dark thoughts overwhelm them.
Betty Ingell is one of the Sorprotimists who understands just what the $75 ticket that several hundred people bought for this year’s Holiday Affair buys. Ingell served 14 years as the MUSD Health Services Director.
Guidance counselors, she noted, are overwhelmed with the day-to-day tasks of advising students.
But more importantly she understands how dark moments can consume teens — parents divorcing, a family member with substance abuse problems, the death of a parent or sibling, and dealing with other pressures to name a few.
“Kids experience the same things adults do but they lack the maturity and knowledge that comes with age (that is critical) to dealing with issues,” Ingell said.
She knows firsthand that the $75 attendees paid can indeed leverage something much more valuable by saving a teen’s life.
School officials have credited the teen crisis counselors for substantially reducing the potential for young people to make decisions that could result in negative consequences to their academic performance, future career paths, their health and lives.
Helping support the teen counseling services in the schools is just a part of what the service club does.
They provide well over $10,000 in scholarships — including seven $1,000 scholarships that go to each of the district’s five comprehensive high schools and two alternative schools. Support of the teen counseling is No. 2 on their list after scholarships followed by supporting the Boys & Girls Club and then other community endeavors such as the HOPE Family Shelters.
And the help they lend goes beyond money. At least nine times a year club members participate in hands-on projects helping those at the shelters. They also man phones to help raise additional funds during the Boys & Girls Club telethon to provide a safe haven for almost 1,800 youth.