‘JoJo’ Garcia recognized for decades of volunteer service

March 1, 2019

NEEDLES — What do you call a guy with between 300 and 500 children? How about Volunteer of the Year?

Recent recognized by the city of Needles for 30 years of service with various recreation department athletic programs for children, Jose M. ‘JoJo’ Garcia is pretty much a full-time volunteer for a host of local interests; and received recognition for several over the last year.

“The first one was the San Bernardino County Diocese 2018 Guadalupe Award for things I do inside and outside the Catholic Church,” Garcia explained. “I’m an altar server (at St. Ann Catholic Church in Needles), a teacher for confirmation, I teach kids to become servers and teach adults too, and I teach adults to become masters of ceremonies,” Garcia said.

He also serves as a board member of the Needles chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and is in charge of the food bank at the society’s First Street thrift store.

The second award, he continued, was being named Volunteer of the Year by the Needles Chamber of Commerce (see Needles Desert Star edition of Oct. 10 for details).

He was also recognized by the Needles Unified School District for 20 years as head of the chain crew which keeps track of yardage gained during football games on Branigan Field.

The most recent recognition came from the city of Needles. Presented an award of appreciation by outgoing Mayor Edward T. Paget M.D. during the Dec. 11 organizational meeting of the Needles City Council, Garcia’s work with recreation programs is near-legendary. He’s served 30 years as a down marker for the flag football program and 30 years coaching youth basketball, where he’s coached all three divisions: A for seventh and eighth grades, B for fifth and sixth and C for third and fourth. He’s missed one category: he hasn’t yet coached C Division girls basketball, a task he said he wants to complete before he retires “so then I’ll have done all the divisions for the rec.”

Garcia isn’t ignoring spring sports either. He reported he’s working on his 27th year as an umpire with the Colorado River Area Girls Softball league.

He describes himself as the “trash guy” for the chamber’s annual Route 66 Hot Boat and Custom Car Show; and works as a bar back for the Needles Rodeo Association Colorado River Round Up.

Why does he do all this? “It gives me something to do and keeps me out of trouble,” he jokes. Turning serious, he said: “The whole town of Needles knows I don’t have any kids. The sports I do I call my kids. I’ve got between 300 and 500 kids and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been a grandpa. I’m now coaching my grandkids.

“I see a lot of crazy things on the field or the basketball court,” he continued. “What kids do on the court or the field. I look back in the past and just laugh about it. Every time the kids cry I always cry and every time they laugh I laugh with them. Sometimes I like to talk trash to the kids, to make them play a little better. Make them think and do things better.”

Does he recommend volunteering? “Yes.” Does he have some advice to offer young people who might want to dedicate themselves to volunteer service? “Believe in themselves,” he said. “To improve their minds a little bit and tell other kids to believe in themselves.”

Why does he do it? Heart, he explained, and friendship. “I’ve been told ‘you have the biggest heart out there. That’s why the kids love you and respect you a lot.’ I have a best friend, a female, my best friend since 1992, and she believes in me too. Without her believing in me I’d give up on myself. Without her I’d be lost.”