‘Band of Angels:’ Manteca Neighbors Come Together to Help Struggling Sisters

MANTECA -- Two Manteca sisters, disabled and living without power for nearly a month, have been adopted by their community.

Florence Bennett knows the exact moment last month that her life changed forever.

"It was exactly 10:33 on the 23rd of January," Florence Bennett said. "I was heading into the kitchen to fix Martha her birthday breakfast."

Florence Bennett and her sister had lived in their home for 30 years.

Their life savings after years of work as registered nurses was gone after the market crashed in 2008. Left in its place were health issues that left Martha Bennett unable to move and Florence Bennett with a bad back. Now the power was turned off in their home.

"Even before the power was turned off there was Martha under four blankets with a hat and a scarf and gloves on, and she’d say, 'But I’m so cold.' And I’d say, 'Sorry, I can’t turn up the heat," Florence Bennett said.

For 25 days, the sisters pushed by, until one day Matthew Morales knocked on their door. Their unkempt lawn and lack of lights prompting him to see who lived there.

"I said, 'I can’t afford to pay you.' And he said, 'No, no, no, that’s not necessary at all. I’ll just come do it,'" Florence Bennett said.

Morales took to Manteca’s Neighborhood Watch page on Facebook, letting people know about the Bennett sisters. Jami Campbell, an administrator on the page, was one of many to hop on the bandwagon.

"They’ve paid into our community their whole lives and so it is just their turn," Campbell told FOX40.

Suddenly the PG&E bill totaling $2,300 was paid, medical supplies were delivered to the door and a group spent six hours cleaning up the front yard.

Campbell decided to bring pizza for Sunday night. Little did she know that was what the sisters planned to have for Martha Bennett’s birthday before the power went out.

"When she told me that I was just beside myself," Campbell said. "I was like, 'I could probably pull together something better than pizza.'"

Campbell brought a birthday cake for both sisters and butterfly ornaments for their front yard.

"It’s been years since we had a birthday cake, or a party, or anything. I couldn’t believe it," Florence Bennett said.

The Bennett sisters’ long nights praying for help were answered by Morales, an angel who had been in their lives before, but neither knew it.

Thirty-five years ago, the Bennetts lived in Tracy. A little boy loved to play with their mother when she would come to visit from Michigan. That little boy their mother told them to cherish was Morales.

"Be careful how you treat a stranger because it may be an angel unaware," Florence Bennett told FOX40. "We loved Matt so much when he was a little boy. Little did we know then that he was an angel."

The Bennetts say faith is the only way this chance encounter occurred.

"I said, 'Please God, put it on somebody’s heart to help us.' And I was telling her this and it was four minutes later Matthew was back," Florence Bennett said.

An angel who went away and came back, and now has a community backing his work.

"It’s Matt’s band of angels," Florence Bennett said. "I keep praising God, saying, 'Oh thank you.'"

If you would like to help with the meal train or in other ways contact Campbell through Facebook.