Jeff Jardine

Jeff Jardine: Toyota shop, others help Modesto theft victim get back on his feet

Sam Cook’s Toyota Corolla was stolen while he was getting dialysis. Police found the car, which was packed full of stolen property, but he had to pay to get it out of the tow yard.
Sam Cook’s Toyota Corolla was stolen while he was getting dialysis. Police found the car, which was packed full of stolen property, but he had to pay to get it out of the tow yard.

From the emails, voice mails and other sources:

STEPPING UP – This is one of those things that would have happened at any time of year, not just during the holidays. I wrote in my Nov. 30 column about Sam Cook of Modesto, whose Toyota Corolla disappeared from a dialysis center parking lot in Ceres while he was hooked up to a machine.

His sister recently gave him the car so he could drive to his thrice-weekly treatments.

A few days later, he received a call from the Manteca police, who had found the car and arrested a suspect in the theft. They told Cook he could retrieve the car from a local tow yard. When he got to the yard, the operator charged him roughly $350 to get his car out of theft-imposed hock. The thief or thieves broke a couple of windows, messed up the ignition when they hot-wired it and left the car crammed full of stuff, including a presumably stolen Makita demolition hammer that had a number written on the plastic case and etched into the tool, suggesting it might have been a rental.

As you might expect, a number of readers offered assistance – everything from repairing the vehicle to monetary gifts to helping Cook and his family out during the holidays. He said he worked at a metals company before his only working kidney failed, leaving him to fight for nearly two years to get his Social Security disability income established.

Modesto Toyota repaired the 2001 Corolla and spiffed it up considerably, at no charge. Other firms, including glass and auto body companies, volunteered to help, too. And several other readers sent him cash or gift cards to make the holidays a bit brighter.

“He, as well as myself and our extended family and friends, are overwhelmed by the generosity that was shown and (we) will be forever grateful,” Cook’s mom, Debbie Monaghan, wrote in an email. “I feel that since our Christmas came early, we have time to let others know that there are truly human angels out there.”

FOR PETS, TOO – Early in November, Niki Schiveley of Oakdale learned that the Delta Humane Society was in dire need of food and supplies for its shelter in neighboring San Joaquin County. So she hastily arranged a pet food drop-off event a day later at the Petco store in Riverbank. The 27-year-old nursing student distributed fliers and used social media to promote the donation campaign. In just three hours Nov. 5, she gathered nearly 1,000 pounds of dog and cat food, and donors also gave her $400 in cash to give to the shelter.

It was so successful that she’ll repeat the effort Dec. 20, again at the Riverbank Petco, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In an event she’s calling “Santa Paws,” she’ll collect donations of food, toys, blankets and other pet-related items and distribute them to local animal shelters and rescue organizations. Email Shiveley at

GOING UP? A couple of months ago, the public elevator in the Stanislaus County Library building in downtown Modesto quit working. So, around the same time, did an elevator in the Health Services Agency, located in the old county hospital along Scenic Drive.

Of the two, the loss of the library has a greater impact on the public. Visitors ride it down to the auditorium in the basement for uses that include veterans events to children’s story time. A few events have been canceled, with another relocated to a different building. Most other events take place in more crowded areas of the main floor, Modesto library Manager Michael Leamy said.

A reader emailed to suggest that replacing the library elevator, which has been out of service since October, is mired in a sea of bureaucratic red tape. Actually, this project has proceeded at warp speed by government standards. After trying to repair the library elevator, original from the 1971 building construction, officials determined replacement would be a longer-lasting option.

“We bundled the projects,” said Keith Boggs, the county deputy chief executive who is overseeing both.

Bidding closed Nov. 21, and the winner was determined Dec. 1. Elevator Industries Inc. of Sacramento submitted the winning bids: $59,076 for the library elevator and $151,107 for the one at Health Services Agency. The Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to approve the work next week. The library’s elevator will be replaced first because it is used by more members of the public. Boggs said it should be up and running by mid-February. Then work on the HSA elevator will begin.

Broken in October, back in working order in February? Pretty quick turnaround if it goes according to schedule.

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! – Richard Sweeney, who retired from Modesto Junior College in 2013 after 46 years as a sociology instructor, recently released his new book, titled “Traveling with Sociology: A Mobile Guide to Help Make Sense of the World Around Us.” It’s available as a Kindle book through Amazon for $4.99.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.