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Wal-Mart makes sure needy kids have presents
Jeraldne Baragan is all smiles after being given a present from a stash that employees of Wal-Mart bought to make sure that each child has something to smile about during tough economic conditions. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
Chuck Crutchfield knows that the current state of the economy is hamstringing families, and that the arrival of the Christmas season is only putting additional strain on cash-strapped parents.

But fortunately the employees of the nation’s largest retailer have stepped in to do their part to ensure that no child goes without a smile on Christmas.

Tuesday morning hundreds of participants of the Give Every Child A Chance after-school tutoring program filled the garden department at Manteca’s Wal-Mart site on S. Main Street – lining up to get their hands on one of more than 240 presents that the staffers themselves rounded up for the event.

According to Paul Shumate – who works as the store manager of the Modesto Wal-Mart located on McHenry Avenue – the idea behind the event started to blossom when his associates suggested that they do something special for kids this Christmas season, especially given everything that families have been facing over the course of the last year.

“When the associates came to me with the idea and suggested Give Every Child a Chance, I called up Chuck (Crutchfield) and we’ve been talking about it ever since,” Shumate said. “We got everything pieced together in just over two weeks, and things appear to be going very well today. It’s great to see the smiles on all of the young faces.

“I’m proud that everybody really came together for this and actually made it happen.”

Crutchfield – who spent more than a decade at the helm of the Boys and Girls Club of Manteca before taking the role of program director at GECAC – said that it’s no secret that some families are going to have to cut back this year while others are going without completely.

Having somebody in the community that cares so much about the children, he said, not only helps make the community a better place to live but livens the spirit of the children during a time of year when family is primarily the focus.

“It’s awesome to see something like this because there are a lot of kids that are getting by on very little right now,” Crutchfield said. “Unfortunately this isn’t just a situation that we see in December. People struggle all year long, and to know that there are people who will selflessly give just to a smile on a child’s face is truly a remarkable thing.”