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Helping Lamese Find John

“Search for John Garcia” saga : A story by Lamese Ugapo.

“Growing up I didn’t have much as far as material things. My family was very poor going without many things that most would consider “necessities”. We had enough to eat (most of the time), clothes on our back and shoes on our feet albeit dirty, worn and handed down. In our home in Banning, I remember our 2 bedroom 900 square feet house being stretched to the max with at times up to 12 people living in it (we had MANY cousins stay with us over the years).

When I was in the 6th grade in Moreno Valley I attended Vista Heights Middle School. My dad worked in LA. I remember my parents struggling to make ends meet ALWAYS. We were evicted from so many places growing up I just thought it was part of the renting experience. Even though I knew the reality of my parents’ financial situation somehow we did not qualify for the free lunch program. So with my parents without money to give us for lunch and no access to free lunch, I braced myself mentally and emotionally for a school year without lunch.

John Garcia
John Garcia

I had come up with tons of acceptable excuses for when my friends would ask me why I wasn’t eating: “Oh I feel sick”, “I think I’m going to go play instead” and my personal favorite “Oh, I’m not hungry”…a hard to believe story coming from a 200 lb 6th grader.

Then one day I made friends with a boy named John Garcia. One day a few months into the school year, he must have noticed that I never ate lunch and asked me why I wasn’t eating. At that point I remember being fed up with all the lies and felt like I could be honest with him. I told him that I had no money and that I didn’t get free lunch. He pulled out his lunch money (that he got every day from his parents) and gave me $2. He said “here, now you can eat”. I was shocked and moved by his kind gesture and was elated to finally be able to eat lunch for once!!!

If the story ended there it would still be a great story of kindness and compassion. However John’s kindness continued. For the
ENTIRE remainder of the school year John gave me lunch money so I wouldn’t have to go without. Being so young at the time I never realized the weight and sacrifice of John’s kind gesture. I never had the opportunity to build a relationship or to even properly thank John for what he did for me because we moved to Banning that summer.

So Facebook family this is where you come in. I want to find John Garcia. He lived in Moreno Valley/Riverside Area around 1988-89. He attended Vista Heights Middle School in the 6th grade and possibly could have attended Canyon Springs High School if he stayed in the area. I don’t have much more info than that.

By the way, those days that I ate because of John’s kind gesture, I don’t ever recall him eating which means that he gave me his lunch money and went without for the benefit of another. John if you’re out there I want you to know that I have plenty of food now. I own 2 restaurants and a successful catering company. And if you read this post YOU, JOHN GARCIA, will NEVER, EVER have to pay at my restaurants for as long as you live. You will eat at my places FOR FREE, FOR LIFE. I cannot tell you how much your kind gesture meant to me and how it has influenced me to be kind and generous to others in my life. I hope to find you so that I can thank you in person one day soon. God bless you John.

2ND UPDATE TO THE “Search for John Garcia” saga!:

We have A pic from an old yearbook that a mutual friend of John and I shared with me!!! Thanks Christine Garrett!

This is a picture of John Garcia the year after I left Moreno Valley, CA. to live in Banning, CA. If anyone recognizes this pic please let me know where John Garcia is. He helped me tremendously when we were in school together and I know that he has no idea how his example touched me. John I hope I find you and that all is well with you.”

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