CERES -- Maelyn Mowdy, a 9-year-old third-grader at Summit Charter Academy in Ceres, began thinking about all of the poor children in the community who wouldn't get anything for Christmas this year.
"She was worried about needy kids because we're kind of in a bad (financial) situation ourselves," said Maelyn's mom Kelly Sargent.
So Maelyn came up with a project she calls Toasty Tootsies and Sweet Treats. She asked her extended family members to donate a pair of new children's socks and a candy cane. Then she asked her pastor at Well Community Church if she could ask the congregation for donations. He said yes.
She wound up with about 300 pairs of socks, each paired with candy canes, which she delivered on Friday to children at the Modesto Gospel Mission, Haven Women's Center and another nonprofit organization.
"She got a little weepy when she saw how many socks she had," Kelly said. "I told her it's amazing how much can be done when you ask people to help."
Deborah Dautrich of Oakdale said that earlier this month, after shopping at Michaels, Lowe's and a Christmas tree lot at the corner of Oakdale Road and Claribel Avenue, she discovered her diamond tennis bracelet was missing.
She searched through her bedroom and the car, but couldn't find it, so she began calling folks at the stores where she had shopped. Her bracelet had not been turned in.
"My daughter stopped by the tree lot Monday evening around 5:30, and even though it was dark, the employees helped her do a search," Deborah said. "Nothing was found, but one of the workers had her leave my name and number."
Two days later, a woman from the tree lot named Karen called to say a co-worker had found Deborah's bracelet.
"It was indeed a blessing," Deborah said. "It seems like all we read about is robberies and car break-ins. It is a great feeling to know there are still trustworthy people in this world. I'm very thankful this turned into a Christmas miracle."
Billee Deering of Modesto and her sister, Frankee Tanner, were having breakfast recently at The Velvet Creamery on Dale Road near Vintage Faire Mall.
"The waitress took our bill off the table and came back with a 'Merry Christmas,' " said Billee. Another diner, a stranger to them, had paid for their meal.
"Our thanks to that kind young lady," Billee said. "We will pay it forward."
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Zumsteg, a reservist with the 186 Dental Co. out of Vallejo, knows what it's like to spend holidays stationed far from home.
He spent two Thanksgivings and a Christmas during an extended deployment to Iraq in 2005-06.
"It can be an extremely lonely time for them," he said of his fellow soldiers. "It can be depressing, and they get homesick when they realize what they're missing being so far from home."
So Jeremy and other members of Modesto Central Seventh-day Adventist Church held a car wash last month to raise money to send care packages to a medical company stationed in Afghanistan. They recently sent 44 boxes to the unit that included everything from body wash and baby wipes "they're quite handy over there" to hard candy, powdered drinks and nut mixtures.
One of the most popular items were letters written by sixth- to 12th-graders at the Adventist school in Ceres, addressed to specific members of the unit. There were also combat socks from 5.11 Tactical, which Jeremy said were provided at the wholesale price.
Jeremy said it was a worthwhile project, one he hopes to repeat in the future.
"I'm planning to do this about this time every year," he said.
Do you have a story about someone who has helped others or is a terrific role model? Send a brief item to Sue Nowicki at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352 or e-mail email@example.com.