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Ceres Chamber gives banquet proceeds to police and fire explorers
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Ceres Chamber of Commerce President Renee Ledbetter handed out checks to benefit Ceres police and fire explorer programs as well as the chaplain program. Left to right are Fire Explorer Blake Hurst, firefighter Carlos Hampton, Fire Chief Bryan Nicholes, Ledbetter and Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith. The presentation was at the June 8 City Council meeting. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The city police and fire explorer programs received a financial boost last week when the Ceres Chamber of Commerce presented funds from the proceeds of the $50-per-plate Ceres Public Safety Black Tie Charity Ball held on March 14.

Police Chief Brent Smith accepted a $1,000 donation to the police explorer program and $1,000 to Fire Chief Bryan Nicholes for the fire explorer program. A $500 donation was made to the chaplain program. Ceres Chamber of Commerce President Renee Ledbetter presented the checks.

Funds were also presented to the police chaplain program. A number of local ministers provide bereavement counseling, emergency support for those in their times of need.

Ledbetter thanked the Stanislaus Farm Supply for contributed $1,000 towards the proceeds.

The Chamber plans to have a similar charity ball next year but Ledbetter admitted that "it may not be as fancy."

"We intend to keep a charity event going every year to help benefit these programs."

The March 14 event featured keynote speaker George Piro, who was the former Ceres Police Officer turned FBI agent who gained the trust of captured Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein. Piro was the first to learn that Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, a ruse that he kept going to prevent Iran from attacking his nation.

The event, hosted by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce, also featured brief talks from two other former Ceres public safety employees: State Senator Anthony Cannella, who was a volunteer firefighter in Ceres from 1987 to 1992; and Ceres police officer turned Sheriff Adam Christiansen.

The Ceres Community Center event included a meal, silent auction and music and dancing to the Ernie Bucio Little Big Band.