Sometimes nerves -- or, the lack thereof -- are a good thing.

Nearly 10 years ago Dana Eaton got involved with Brentwood's Community Chest, the group that helps feed nearly 500 folks during the holidays.

The educator had just moved to that city to help open Pioneer Elementary School, and Community Chest founder Rose Pierce told Eaton he could participate in the annual program.

"The school was partly named in honor of Pierce. She told me I'd be helping, and I was too scared to say no," Eaton said. "That was in 2003 and I've been helping ever since." It seems he wouldn't have it any other way.

Eaton said he feels fortunate to "live in a great town like Brentwood. I love getting to meet and work with community members who want to help others ..."

During the next few weeks, Eaton and the group will devote much of their time to ensure the event is a success.

Not one to hog the limelight, Eaton said that although he is listed as the group's co-president with Kevin King, "it really is a team of people that work together to share responsibilities. There are so many who come together to support this event."

Now superintendent of Tracy's Jefferson School District, Eaton's free time is limited. Naturally, most of his spare time is spent with his wife and two children, ages 7 and 10.

But when it comes to the Community Chest, he is all in.

"My kids love helping sort the toys and to 'shop' for families."


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Before moving on to Tracy, Eaton worked in the Brentwood district office and then spent four years as principal of Pioneer Elementary, which his children attend.

Eaton has many fond memories surrounding the Community Chest, including the time one unknown volunteer was with him in the trenches.

"He worked for hours and hours ... and, was there nearly the entire time we were," Eaton recalled. "He had a great smile that he wore the entire two days. None of us knew he had lost his job, was struggling to support his family and was on our list to receive a basket. It was inspiring to see someone dedicate so much of himself to others during a time when he was in need."

Come Dec. 15, more than 500 such families from Brentwood, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen and Bethel Island will be gifted with food for a full holiday dinner and presents for their children.

Anyone can donate goods and toys or make a monetary contribution. Volunteers can help sorting and package the items on Dec. 14, or the distribution on Dec. 15. Both events are at Brentwood Elementary, 200 Griffith Lane.

Families, clubs and teams often participate as a group, and students can get validated for volunteer hours.

Donation barrels have been placed at numerous local businesses, schools and post offices. If interested in hosting a barrel, call Jeff Schults at 925-890-8296.

Those wishing to receive one of the care packages must apply on one of the following dates: from 1-3 p.m. Sunday; from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Nov. 28; and from 6-8 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Brentwood Senior Center, 193 Griffith Lane.

Applicants need to show proof of identity and residence (a driver's license or ID card and a utility bill is required.) For more information, call Lill Pierce at 925-634-3216.

For school and organization info, call Eaton at 209-321-0725.

"The best thing about the Community Chest is that all donations stay local," Eaton said.

The Brentwood Regional Community Chest was founded by Rose Pierce almost 50 years ago for "the love of her community." Eaton, along with hundreds of other volunteers, keeps the cause going. As board members say, they "work to continue her vision of a community supporting its own."

Maybe that's why Eaton couldn't say no to her almost a decade ago.

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net.

TO HELP
Volunteers can help sort and package the items from 4-10 p.m. Dec. 14, or take part in the distribution from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 15. Both events are at Brentwood Elementary, 200 Griffith Lane.