Fogata, a 30-plus-year veteran of the SPPD, suffered a heart attack January 16 and was released from the hospital January 22. Just three days later, January 25, he was hospitalized again for tests and observance.
The event was put together in an astonishing eight days and was so successful that the tri-tip and chicken barbecue prepared by Santa Paula Firefighters — planned for about 400 — was soon gone. Volunteers bought out the nearby supermarket’s supply of hot dogs, hamburger patties and buns to finish feeding the supporters, who paid a minimum donation of $20 for dinner.
SPPD Reserve Lt. Brad Tallent of the dinner committee noted that the California Highway Patrol had stopped by earlier and picked up 25 dinners to go — and then donated an extra $100 to the benefit fund for Fogata.
“Everyone has been amazing,” said Tallent, who although well aware of the traditional support of first responders for their ilk, nevertheless seemed surprised, as well as delighted, by the turnout.
“The food was moving so fast we could barely keep up,” with the to go orders said SPPD Cadet Martha Brown, who also helped plan the event.
“The front,” where guests could sit and eat while enjoying the music by the Cruise Knights band, “wasn’t as busy, but it was steady all night. So many people helped including our Explorers,” who bussed tables and took on any job required of them.
With a crush of out of town law enforcement and fire personnel attending the dinner, “This must be the safest building in Ventura County,” said Samantha Frady, who was handing out Sharpie pens to those who wanted to sign a roll of butcher block paper with get well greetings for Fogata.
“I got around 300 signatures and wishes for Jimmy,” as well as dozen of stories told about how Fogata, a native of Santa Paula, had assisted them over the years.
“One lady almost broke down telling me what Jimmy did for her when she lost her husband,” said Frady. “He’s also had a wonderfully kind heart, people love him.”
Police Chief Steve McLean was circulating through the crowd welcoming people and listening to their own memories about Fogata.
“It really gives me a warm feeling that so many people are here supporting Jimmy, that so many are offering very kind words about him, the department and our personnel,” said McLean.
“Santa Paula really supports each other, there’s no doubt about that!”
Fogata’s daughter Bailey Fogata, grandchild and his own three young children were in the crowd, the kids basking in the attention and the warm caring words about their father and grandfather.
At one point, SPPD Reserve Sgt. Mark Cagnacci, who also served on the dinner committee, read a text from Fogata who was able to watch the event live on social media from his hospital bed.
“I was shocked,” said Tallent Monday. “The outpouring of support was basically over the top. It was beyond our highest expectations and our Explorers did a fantastic job,” handling the unexpected crowd.
Their efforts, “really gives you hope for the next generation.”
Tallent said he expected Fogata to be released from the hospital Monday, January 30.
Donations are still being accepted to cover Fogata’s medical and living expenses. Donation checks made out to the Jimmy Fogata Benefit Fund can be dropped off at the SPPD Station or mailed to 214 S. 10th St., Santa Paula, CA 93060. Checks can also be taken directly to the Bank of the Sierra (901 E. Main St.), where the account is held.
Those with questions can contact McLean at 805-525-4474 ext. 123. “We’re so thrilled, but not surprised at how the community turned out for Jimmy,” said McLean. “And we know this community will continue to show Jimmy how appreciated he is as a police officer, community member, and friend.”