Davis businessman has a heart for families

By From page A5 | November 16, 2011

J.D. and Chris Denton, owners of Fleet Feet Sports in downtown Davis, set aside boxes of brand-new running shoes to give to families served by the Yolo Crisis Nursery. The Dentons take care of these families every year. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By Becky Heard and Heather Jeppeson

J.D. Denton was just shy his 2nd birthday when his dad died. At the time, single motherhood was extremely rare. There were no examples and little support to help the fatherless family of four survive.

When things were especially tough, “usually friends, neighbors or family stepped in,” Denton said. “But there were times we could have used a crisis nursery.”

He first learned about crisis nurseries at a Rotary Club of Davis meeting more than a decade ago when the Yolo Crisis Nurserywas about to open. A wish list was distributed and one item, in particular, touched his heart.

“When I was a kid, I had a rocking chair that squeaked. My mother would rock me to sleep, and I remember being very comforted,” he recalled. “I knew the kids at the nursery needed a rocking chair.”

Shortly after, Denton was shopping at Davis Ace, found a comfortable chair and sat down. When he began to rock, something affirmed his selection … the chair squeaked.

From that very first purchase to today, J.D. and Chris Denton, owners of Fleet Feet Davis, have supported the Yolo Crisis Nursery. So, it came as no surprise when the couple said yes when Sherry Puntillo, past president of the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, asked for a favor.

Her request? Supplying shoes for every child served by the Friends’ new holiday program, Families Adopting Families.

For the past seven years, nursery clients facing extreme economic hardship don’t go without on Christmas. Individuals and groups willing to anonymously meet a family’s needs are matched according to donor affordability (i.e., recipient family size). Requests are modest, like clothing, bedding, cookware, grocery gift cards and simple toys. One year, a child had only one wish: books in Braille.

At first, the program was small — the Dentons were asked for, and supplied, a dozen pairs of shoes. As the program expanded to serve more families, they now secure footwear well in excess of the original count, parents included.

“Times are tough, but shoes are shoes. If you have a new pair, you feel better, more confident and comfortable,” Denton said. “Especially during the holidays when we’re likely to see family, it’s good to look like something’s going right in your life, even if there’s a lot that’s not.”

About three years ago, one of his vendors, New Balance, heard of Fleet Feet’s generosity and wanted to help.

“I thought they’d satisfy a portion of my list, but in just a couple of weeks, they fulfilled everything,” Denton said.

“I feel like Santa Claus going through our stock and making the right selection for each person. I guess I’m kind of selfish in that regard,” he explained with a smile on his face.

But in an instant, he turns serious and tears surface.

“Those kids didn’t do anything to deserve their circumstances; they were just born,” he said. “If nursery families realize people care — people who don’t even know them — then maybe that will make their day a little better.”

Before heading back to work, Denton said he doesn’t know if his squeaky rocking chair is still in use.

“I hope so,” he whispered, but quickly changed his mind. “If they wore it out, all the better.”

If you or a group of your friends would like to adopt a family, contact Heather Jeppeson at [email protected] or (916) 752-4462. For nursery services, call (530) 758-6680.

— Becky Heard and Heather Jeppeson are co-presidents of Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery. This column is published monthly.

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