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ADDICTED TO CHOCOLATE -- With the Hershey plant closing its factory in Oakdale, one might assume the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce might look for some other locally produced goody to replace its annual chocolate festival in the spring and chocolate ball in the fall, right?
Mary Guardiola, the chamber's executive director, said the group will stick with its chocolate theme even though the company soon will be gone, putting several hundred employees out of work.
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Also, the Hershey's Visitor Center, which opened amid great fanfare in June 1990, will close at the end of the year. Until the company eliminated factory tours after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the center served as the hub for the tens of thousands annually who visited the plant and scored a free Hershey's bar for their trouble.
The building, in the heart of Oakdale, is now for sale. It doesn't matter, Guardiola said, that chocolate no longer will be made in the Cowboy Capital.
She pointed out that there aren't any wineries in Riverbank, though that product is a mainstay of the neighboring city's annual cheese and wine fest.
Even as workers and supporters on street corners in downtown Oakdale protested Hershey's closure plans, last year's chocolate festival drew 22 confectioners other than Hershey, she said.
Saturday night's chocolate ball drew about 200 people who paid $65 per ticket. Attendance was down slightly from previous years -- not because of the closing of the Hershey factory, Guardiola said, but because some of the real estate agents who supported it in years past are watching their budgets as a result of the housing market downturn.
ACCOUNT-ABILITY -- As the result of two recent house fires, accounts have been set up at local banking institutions to help the victims. Anyone wanting to help Katherine McIntosh can contribute to an account in her name at Valley First Credit Union. McIntosh is the woman who, as a child in 1936, was featured in a famous photograph by Dorothea Lange titled "Migrant Mother." McIntosh had her mother's copy of the still photograph in her home, and it was destroyed in the Oct. 26 blaze.
A similar account has been established at U.S. Bank for Renee Matlock, whose rented house burned Oct. 29, leaving the single mom and her four young children with no home.
Understand that these accounts are not trusts, nor are they tax deductible. They represent cash gifts to these specific fire victims.
WITHOUT WHEELS -- Wayne Brown is an 80-year-old who resides at Hospitality House in Salida. He recently bought a motorized scooter, with about 2,000 miles on the odometer. On Oct. 24, shortly before Brown went to Modesto to have surgery, a couple of the valley's less-than-finest stole it out of the assisted living center's yard. The light-blue Yamaha was Brown's only form of transportation. Witnesses said they saw two men take the scooter, which Brown said was locked but not chained, from the yard where residents store their bikes. The registration and other paperwork were in a compartment on the scooter. The thieves put it in the back of an older pickup and drove off about 3:15 a.m.
Brown is asking anyone with information to call him at 543-9275 or Stanislaus County sheriff's community service officer Maralee Clifton at 543-7355.
RECYCLING -- Frances Redington said Marple Manor's recycling program gives its residents the chance to "grow old and green gracefully."
A few months ago, Redington and another Marple Manor resident, Betty Hamilton, began urging residents of the 147-unit retirement complex on Coffee Road in Modesto to recycle. Now, every Saturday night or Sunday morning, more than 60 residents put their recyclables on their doorsteps. A number of volunteers -- including one who's had a stroke -- pick up the discards and sort them.
"It's amazing how much we get," Redington said.
Then, on Tuesdays, they take the stuff to Century Center, where they get $15 to $20 for their combined efforts. The money helps pay for coffee and doughnuts for the residents' association meetings, Redington said.
She also pitched the idea to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where she worships. Parishioners have begun saving recyclables to give to the Marple Manor folks, who turn them in and get to keep the cash.
Really, in the end, it's all about redemption.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2383.