I got our usual holiday season call from Lodi Adopt-A-Child manager Jerry Glenn on Wednesday.
But it wasn't the usual message.
About now is often when Jerry's in a panic. He needs more publicity to plead for more toys, more bikes, more money to make sure all of Lodi's kids have a Christmas present.
"This is a celebration," said Jerry. "I'm calling to say: 'Lodi, you've done it.'"
Each year, Lodi school teachers flood Adopt-A-Child with requests to help out cash-strapped famlies. This year, there were more than 1,100 requests. As of Wednesday, all but 23 had been paid for or pledged by Adopt-A-Child donors.
Jerry's confident he'll get the last two dozen gifts without any drama. Despite the recession, Lodi is enthusiastic about providing for its most unfortunate young citizens.
Jerry wanted me to come over and witness this bounty of goodwill. I was in the middle of emails, personnel problems and a to-do list lengthening like the tape on a Christmas season cash register.
I was in such a rush I forgot to grab a camera, but I'm glad I went, anyway.
At the office/warehouse on the corner of Main and Pine streets, I was witness to neatly wrapped gifts piled nearly to the ceiling, two or three 50-foot rows of bicycles and the smiles of some of Adopt-A-Child's all-volunteer staff.
There was inventory manager Angie Valdovinos. I asked Angie what she does.
"My job ..."
Jerry, giddy with Lodi's generosity, interrupted her: "Her job description is, 'Hey, Angie.'"
"My job," said Angie, "is to make sure all my kids get taken care of ..." All 1,147 of the children needing Christmas cheer are Angie's kids.
Dyanne Jones does the data entry to make sure Santa knows who gets what.
Kathy Reynolds, Lupe Cabrera, Isabel Ochoa and Brenda Armento were wrapping packages.
There are special cases that warm these volunteers' hearts — a girl with cerebral palsy who needs a sturdy play table so she can eat sitting up, not laying in bed; a great-grandmother in her 80s wants to create Christmas for her 12-year-old great-granddaughter, whose mother left the child behind to pursue a drug habit.
These are just a few of the Adopt-A-Child stories.
Add to that story a very important cast of characters: Lodians who care for all our kids.
An unusual malady
Ever suffered "introductophobia"?
It happens when Courtney Dempsey at "Good Day Sacramento" sticks the microphone in front of you and asks you to introduce your staff — the people you work with every darn day.
"Sure, Courtney, this is ..."
Theresa Larson and the rest of the News-Sentinel leaders just introduced themselves while I melted right there on live TV.
Actually, having a Channel 31 camera and the "Pawn Shop Insiders" at the Lodi News-Sentinel was a delight.
But if I ever blow up while trying to introduce you, please don't take it personally.