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Police chief foundation shops for 104 kids
Manteca Police Lt. Tony Souza, center, helps Christian Vargas, bottom, shop for toys Saturday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Police Chief Nick Obligacion couldn’t put a price on Saturday’s shopping excursion at the Manteca Wal-Mart that saw uniformed officers and other off-duty department personnel playing Santa for 104 needy children.

It’s not that he didn’t know what the Manteca Police Chief Foundation was spending. He was referencing the invaluable one-on-one time youth were spending with police officers.

“It is a chance for youth to see police officers in a different light,” Obligacion said.

Manteca officers were chatting with the boys and girls that they escorted through the store to pick up items for Christmas.

The police chief said it gave the kids a chance to see and talk with officers up close and personal and not to rely on what others say about them.

The foundation was founded by former Chief Dave Bricker and continued under Obligacion’s watch as a way of giving kids growing up in households where poverty, gangs, and drugs are a way of life the power of choice.

The foundation’s aim is to give “these kids back the power of choice” one child at a time through various endeavors the non-profit supports.

The organization has just one fundraiser — the annual Night Among Heroes held in September. The event typically raises $25,000.

The foundation was born in the when Bricker was chief and was appealing to the community — churches, community groups, and individuals — to help stem the tide against gangs by giving youth options. At the time residents in the Southside neighborhood near downtown lived in fear of gangs that literally had taken over the city park as well as forced people to stay inside much of the time.

A concentrated police effort coupled with other agencies ranging from building inspection to the health department helped turn the tide. A citywide National Night Out event was staged at the park to send a message that the neighborhood didn’t belong to gangs and that residents shouldn’t live in fear. It was also an effort to encourage the community to assist with the ongoing effort to give kids choices.

Several community-based initiatives were born from that event including the Friday Unity in the Neighborhood summer program for kids implemented by Southside Christian Church.

A hundred percent of all funds the foundation raises go directly to programs that benefit at-risk kids.

Among those programs are:

b.first,, and b.culinary vocational education programs.

 the Manteca-based Great Valley Bookfest.

Junior CSI and the Chief’s Academies.

Music and art education programs.

Agriculture in Motion science camp.

holiday outreach where funds were spent securing clothing and toys for needy kids.

the FUN program.

Sober Graduation.

The Second Harvest Food Bank’s Food for Thought program for kids where they are rewarded with bags of food for doing homework.

Little League and community youth sports programs.

Manteca Youth Focus.

Saturday’s shopping effort was also supported by the Manteca-Ripon Tactical Officers, Manteca Police Employees Association, Wal-Mart and individual donations from Fred Milner, Ron Lafrancinni, and several anonymous donors.

Financial donations for the Manteca Police Chief’s Foundation can be mailed to 1001 W. Center St., Manteca, CA, 595337