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Stepping up to help those in need
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The Agape Village Foster Family staffers work behind the scene wrapping presents as resource development officer Joann Beattie holds up a girl’s bicycle that will be a special gift for some foster child on Christmas. - photo by GLENN KAHL
If you can help Manteca family

The following are clothing needs for the three children - plus four nephews - of a Manteca family that P.J. Ward is trying to help this Christmas. The father is employed as a full-time mechanic but the family is struggling after taking on four nephews to avoid them going into foster care. Although the family has one income, he makes too much to qualify for assistance but is struggling to make ends meet.

For anyone who can help Ward in her Christmas effort, she needs to collect any gift donations by Dec. 17 to determine whether she can give each child at least one new outfit and a toy.  Her phone numbers are 824-6107 and 484-2763.

• Boy, 5 years old, shirt size 8, pants size 8-9, shoe size 12.
• Girl, 6 years old, shirt size 8, pants size 7-8, shoe size 12.
• Boy, 7 years old, shirt size 10, pants size 9-10, size 3.
• Boy, 8 years old, shirt size 10-12, pants size 10, shoe size 4-5.
• Boy, 9 years old, shirt size 10-12, pants size 10, shoe size 5.
• Boy, 12 years old, shirt size large (Boy), pants size 30x32, shoe size 8
• Boy, 13 years old, shirt large (Boy), pants size 32x34, shoe size 10.

Christmas giving for the sake of children is prompting Manteca community members to step forward this holiday season.

One group - Agape Village Foster Family Agency staff - was wrapping children’s presents on Monday in the old city hall building on Sycamore Avenue.

The two-story brick building that once housed the Manteca courthouse doubled as the city council chambers. Partitions have cut up the large room that once saw Judge Pricilla Haynes hold court next door to the constable’s office.  It’s all modernized now and the only hint of the dark brown interior is seen on the entry door.

Vickie Laguna stood behind the counter in the office and told of a recent shopping trip where she knocked a display in Target Store over into the next aisle onto a woman shopper who would unexpectedly become an angel – learning of her shopping needs for their foster children.

Laguna tells of her looking through the gift card display rack.  She said she was reaching for a card on the top of the display and knocked the whole set of cards over on top of a white-haired grandmother in the next aisle.  Her short stature at five feet caused the problem in reaching above her head.

Humbled by what she had done, she was surprised even more by the woman coming and helping her to pick up the scattered cards on the floor.  She was apologetic but the woman would hear nothing of it – it was obviously an accident.

They chatted briefly and both went on their way only to meet again at the checkout register.  Laguna said she was questioned by the clerk on her $325 in presents that she was buying for the foster kids through the generosity of her Church of Christ community.

The Agape representative explained they were for children in need through her workplace as it has been difficult to raise donations during the current economic slump.  The woman from the embarrassing incident in the aisle was walking by and heard Laguna’s words.

The woman immediately made her way over to the check out area and told of her own non-profit recently burning in a fire saying she knew how difficult it is to raise funds.  Described by Laguna as a warm grandmotherly type, the woman slipped three $20 bills into her hand.

With tears in their eyes the women agreed, “We bonded in the gift card line.”

The two women hugged each other and both cried with tears of appreciation for each others’ determination to make a difference.  Laguna said she was so thankful for the money and was left in awe as the woman walked away.  

“She was gone in a moment and I didn’t even get her name,” she said.  “She had the sweetest face. That was my miracle day.”

Manteca couple opens home to 4 nephews
Also on Monday Manteca AAA insurance sales representative P.J. Ward shared a story about a couple in their late 20s – with three young children of their own – who, without hesitation, took four nephews under their roof.  The father is employed full time as a mechanic, but he’s making too much money to receive any aid that might help them survive.  

The four boys eight to 12 years old who were set to go into foster care when the young couple – an aunt and uncle with three of their own – opened their arms and made room in their home.

The foster care option for the boys carried with it the possibility of separating the brothers, which the couple couldn’t allow to happen.  With only the one income they are making it work by cutting corners at every turn in their lives.  

The AAA staffer said they struggle through each month taking one day at a time to clothe and feed them, while working to keep them away from gangs and drugs they say surround them every day in and out of school.

Ward told of attending a fund raising dinner and auction recently for a leukemia victim in a police officer’s family.  Many attended the community center event in Ripon where she purchased several auction items to use for Christmas.

A young woman named Kim approached her and asked what she was going to do with her purchases.   She told of the family with seven children very much in need this year.  She noted that the woman walked away only to return within minutes – asking if she could use a bicycle.

When she responded with her emphatic, yes, the woman asked if she could use two bicycles.  The woman – Kim Ormonde – is the wife of interim Ripon P olice Chief Ed Ormonde.  As the veteran insurance lady would quickly tell anyone – that was another angel who unexpectedly came on the scene on cue to make a difference.

Ward said that she has personally known the family of seven children for just a short time and they are “some really cool” people.  

“I do want to stress this is a family I have chosen along with some of my friends and family to help out this year.  This is not an AAA sponsored family,” she said.
“It’s hard to think of kids on Christmas morning without jackets or shoes,” she said.

For anyone who can help Ward in her Christmas effort, she needs to collect any gift donations by Dec. 17 to determine whether she can give each child at least one new outfit and a toy.  Her phone numbers are 824-6107 and 484-2763.

And in Ripon, a family that lost their home to fire on French Camp Road recently drew the support of the Colony Oak School community in addition to others who were touched by their loss from throughout the school district.

In addition to stacks of clothes, there was over a $1,000 in cash that funneled in to the rural school campus on Murphy Road to help sustain that family through the holidays.