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MANTECA: More Bedford Falls than Pottersville
Year-old Mason Macias takes a nap for his photo with Santa at the Manteca Bass Pro Shops Winter Wonderland. - photo by HIME ROMERO

It is not a perfect world.

There is suffering. There is hunger. There is injustice.

But before you dive deep into the gloom and doom, all of that is overshadowed by gestures that go uncounted day in and day out.

You see it at SaveMart where a young man pauses to help an elderly woman in a scooter retrieve an item from the top shelf.

You hear it in the voice of a retired engineer patiently working with a third grade boy as a volunteer tutor with Give Every Child a Chance.

You feel it in the warmth of a blanket knitted by a Del Webb women’s group as it is wrapped around a cancer patient at Kaiser Hospital.

There are those who slam Manteca incessantly. They dwell on its dark side acting as if somehow Manteca is the only community where evil lurks in the form of meth and criminals.

But the truth is all of that evil is overshadowed by the good. It’s ironic but we often take the good for granted while dwelling on the bad.

In this season of families and sharing, we need to take a moment and reflect on the good of our family — the greater community — and rejoice in what we have.

The blessings are endless.

If you doubt that, take some time this Christmas Eve morn and wander into Manteca Ford at 555 North Main St. If business is such a horrible concept to you, then how do you explain what is unfolding in a place designed to sell muscle cars, SUVs, and economy cars? Some 1,500 people struggling to survive are being served breakfast and gifts given to their kids by a small army of volunteers who are taking time away from their families to make the season brighter for others not as fortunate.

It says a lot about a community where people won’t celebrate their good fortune without sharing it with others.

If you doubt this, give Mike Mallory a call. He’s the head honcho at the Second Harvest Food Bank. He’ll tell you his peers in efforts to keep food closets filled across the country are stunned a community of Manteca’s size has stepped up for 16 years in a row and raised well over $20,000 each year through Turkeys R Us to make sure that no struggling family goes without a traditional meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And it’s not just a gesture made at the holidays. Food closets throughout Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop are filled by those who don’t want to ignore a child going hungry.

Long before it became fashionable to worry about the homeless, Manteca’s churches stepped up two decades ago to help homeless families as well as single moms without kids. HOPE Family Shelters does it on a tight $150,000 a year budget of which 90 percent comes from churches as well as individual donations. It’s not the government that is helping when the need is greatest, it is your neighbors.

Some are aghast at the number of Little Leagues, youth soccer leagues, and youth football teams that Manteca has in addition to a slew of city recreation leagues for youth and programs through the Boys & Girls Club, Give Every Child a Chance and Friday Unity in the Neighborhood.

The critics say it dilutes the competitiveness of some of the leagues. Winning is not what it is about. Getting kids to participate, to socialize, and to be active is the goal. And none of it would be possible without a legion of volunteers of which many labor throughout the year to make sure the iconic words “play ball” can be shouted just as the sweet nectar of the almond blossoms fade.

Drop by 295 Cherry Lane and get a firsthand look at how this community cares about its seniors. Manteca has embraced the idea that life begins at 50.

It is why this city has one of the most active — if not the most active — group of senior volunteers assisting law enforcement in the form of Manteca Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police. SHARP also goes beyond the police department helping in community endeavors as well. The same is true of the Manteca Seniors Aiding Fire Effort.

Manteca has a rich tradition of helping the most vulnerable.

It is why this community 40 years ago started Valley Community Action Programs to address the needs of mentally challenged adults and has since exported the program to much larger neighboring cities such as Modesto.

The same is true for the community-based Give Every Child a Chance free tutoring program that has been helping struggling kids improve their grades since 1998. Now more 4,000 kids a year are being put on stronger academic footing thanks to a long list of volunteers who also double as mentors.

This is a community where people like Pastor Quincy McClain step up to challenges posed by gangs and fight back with alternatives for kids such as Friday Unity in the Neighborhood. Not just do they provide a safe haven for kids to hang out but they make sure they receive nutritional meals plus learn to make the right decisions for their lives.

The same is true for the Boys & Girls Club that has been providing not just a safe haven for kids but a place where they can build the foundation to lead productive lives. It’s been going strong for 35 years. And it was started by the community complete with an old-fashioned style barn raising to erect the building. And it has been supported by the community ever since.

There are also a repertoire of organizations such as the Sunrise Kiwanis, Manteca Kiwanis, Manteca Rotary, Morning Rotary, Soroptimists, Manteca Lions and more that do everything from staging community Thanksgiving meals and underwriting teen counseling services to providing additional volunteer and financial support for non-profits serving the community’s most vulnerable.

And there are countless individuals that do things such as open their homes to young adults who are kicked out of the foster system at age 18, make sure low-income seniors on limited incomes next door doesn’t go without food, and that make sure a poor family down the street has clothes for their kids to wear to school.

Yes, these are things that people and a community should be doing.

And Manteca is doing them on a level that would put many communities to shame.

But this isn’t about comparing Manteca to other towns.

It is about making you realize that Manteca is more Bedford Falls than Pottersville.

And while Manteca has warts and problems, when push comes to shove it’s a wonderful place.