Community Involvement

CDCR staff brightens holidays for those in need, part 1

Compiled by Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor

Staff volunteers from CCI, CIM, CVSP, SATF, CSP-Solano, COR, Contract Beds Unit and NKSP focused on making the holidays a little brighter for those in need. To submit your institution’s efforts, email them to don.chaddock@cdcr.ca.gov no later than close of business Jan. 7, 2020. (Read part 2.)

Correctional staff pose with children by a Christmas tree.
CCI staff and children at the Shop with a Cop event.

California Correctional Institution

On Dec. 5, California Correctional Institution (CCI) officers participated in the Shop with a Cop program. 

Approximately 20 children were paired up with Officers from CCI, Tehachapi Police Department, Stallion Springs Police Department, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and the CHP.  Children were treated to a pizza dinner at the Tehachapi Police Department. 

Afterward the children were given a police escort in police cars with lights and sirens all the way to Walmart. 

There the children were given $100 to spend with an Officer as their escort to help them do their shopping. 

Officers even dug into their own pockets if the children exceeded the $100. 


Santa and two elves.
Sgt. John Bennett, center, is helped by two elves during the CIM community dinner.

California Institution for Men

By Lt. Tom Lopez

On Dec. 13, California Institution for Men (CIM) hosted a Community Christmas Dinner at the institution. CIM set up multiple large outdoor tents with heaters in front of the institution’s visiting area and invited 36 families to come enjoy a night filled with a catered dinner from Cannataros, which included spaghetti, salad and dinner rolls. 

All the families arrived by 5:30 P. M. and comfortably seated in the tent area. The families were served drinks by CIM staff who also delivered the dinner to each seated guest. 

Smiling child holds a cookie she decorated.
Children decorate cookies during the community dinner at CIM.

The night included entertainment from DJ Banuelos, who played music with holiday cheer and provided holiday movies for viewing using a projector system. 

CIM staff ran multiple craft tables to include sugar-cookie decorating table and crafting a tree ornament. 

The night was capped off with every family being called up to see Santa in front of a 12-by-7 foot gingerbread facade created by CIM’s vocation department. Santa was our very own Sgt. John Bennett, who has worked for CDCR for 42 years.  The night was a great success as each child and their family sat with Santa and were given presents by CIM staff members. 

All the food, tents, lights, Christmas tree, decorations and crafts for the children were donated through the Chino Valley Employees Association (CVEA). 

Warden (A) Mona D. Houston said, “The night is not a success without the time and generosity of CIM Staff and the CVEA. I saw multiple staff members comforting our invited families by serving them food and drinks and taking them to their seated area. The staff and I are very fortunate to be able to assist and give back to families this time of year. 

“CIM staff volunteered to provide for a family this holiday season and were given a Christmas list from a family and they went out and personally shopped for the family.  It was beautiful to see the excitement in the children’s eye and to hear the parents thanking my staff or me for a perfect holiday night. In closing, I would like to personally thank the employees at CIM and the members of the CVEA for positively affecting so many people this holiday season”.


Children and law enforcement officers pose for a photo.
CVSP and Ironwood staff joined other law enforcement officers to help children shop for the holidays.

Chuckawalla Valley State Prison

By Lt. John Hernandez

Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) hosted its annual Civil Servants for Santa in Blythe on Dec. 7. This event has become a long-standing tradition for CVSP as a way to contribute to the local community.

Officers escort children through a store.
CVSP staff help children shop for the holidays.

Like every year, staff from Ironwood State Prison, in conjunction with the Blythe Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff, local fire departments and California Highway Patrol also participated.

The event started promptly at 9 a.m. at the local Recreation Center where children were treated to a variety of holiday entertainment, which included seeing Santa Claus, who took time from his busy schedule to visit the local girls and boys. Thanks to Reach Air, Santa Claus arrived in a helicopter.

Once all the children met Santa, they were taken to a local retail store by Christmas trolley.

The children were treated to a shopping extravaganza with each child being chaperoned by uniformed personnel, such as police, firefighters, nurses and correctional officers.

After all the children finished their Christmas shopping, they were provided lunch and waited for their parents to arrive. A special thanks to Community Resource Manager Kenny Kalian, Blythe’s Police Activity League, and everyone who worked tirelessly in ensuring the success of this event.

Warden David Holbrook and Ironwood State Prison Warden Neil McDowell thanked everyone for their generosity and for taking time out of their busy schedules to volunteer for this event.

Later that evening, the Blythe Christmas Parade commenced with the CVSP float positioned third from the front of the parade.

CVSP Warden Holbrook along with his family rode on the float, waving and wishing everyone a merry Christmas.

At the end of the parade, the Blythe Christmas Parade Committee voted for the best float. This year, CVSP’s float won first place out of 60 entries.


Corcoran prison staff present oversized checks to charities.
Checks were presented to local charities to help those less fortunate. The money was raised through inmate food sales.

CSP-Corcoran

By Lt. Anthony Peterson

On Nov. 14, CSP-Corcoran staff presented a check for $3,200 to the Corcoran Emergency Aid. The money was raised from inmate food sales. The donation was added to the Corcoran Emergency Aid fund, which was used to purchase over 1,300 frozen turkeys for Operation Gobble.

Kings County Supervisor District 2 Richard F. Valle attended the check presentation event.

“In the tradition of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, I am committed to carrying on the tradition of Operation Gobble, a project that will help get turkeys to needy families. Operation Gobble is kind of a funny name for a serious problem.  We are in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, the breadbasket of the world, and still many will go without anything this holiday season. This project will not solve all the hunger problems in the Valley, but by all of us working together, it will do a small part,” Valle said.

On Nov. 25, CSP-Corcoran collaborated with other agencies to distribute the turkeys at events held in Corcoran and Hanford.


Prison staff watch children open gifts.
SATF staff purchased gifts for children.

Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran

By Lt. Eric Smith

For the past several years Project Santa has become a SATF tradition. The annual gift-giving event focuses on providing Christmas gifts to children and teens within our local communities. This year alone, Project Santa donated 234 Christmas gifts.

Each season, Christmas trees of hope are placed throughout the institution with a tag noting the age and gender of a child.  The children receiving the gifts are selected by local community schools and groups. Each year, with their generous desire to give, our staff select a tag or several tags from the Christmas tree and return with their wrapped gifts.  The gifts are then passed out by staff to various organizations.

Warden S. Sherman said, “It’s a wonderful opportunity to provide Christmas gifts to the children in our local community. It shows a great amount of generosity from our SATF staff who continue to give to our local communities so unselfishly. It brings joy to the hearts of everyone involved, in the spirit of Christmas, to bring so much happiness to those who are less fortunate.This could not have been accomplished without the kindness and generosity of SATF staff.” 


Two photos show a table full of gifts and a room of senior citizens.
Vacaville senior citizens were provided with Christmas gifts purchased by CSP-Solano staff.

CSP-Solano

Kenya Williams, CSP-Solano’s Supervisor of Education Programs, spearheaded an effort to provide presents to low income seniors and the disabled in Vacaville. An assisted living center serving senior citizens and those with developmental disabilities were provided gifts purchased by Solano staff members.


Men and women with boxes loaded with
The Contract Beds Unit holiday gift crew was out in force.

Contract Beds Unit

By Lt. Thomas M. Quezada

The Contract Beds Unit donated over 176 Christmas stockings filled with gloves, socks, hats, candy, gift cards and a personal gift to the ladies and children at the Women’s Empowerment program in Sacramento. The stockings were distributed Saturday, Dec. 14. The recipients in this program are at-risk women and children. The program helps to get the ladies off the streets and job ready. No photos were taken during the event but staff was more than ready to smile for the camera with their donations.


People stand in front of gift baskets decorated for Thanksgiving.
From left are Thanksgiving basket judges CDW B. Kibler, M.Cauthron, Warden K. Santoro and Rafael Silva.

North Kern State Prison

By Lt. Garry Garrett

THANKSGIVING — On Nov. 21, North Kern State Prison (NKSP) held its annual Thanksgiving baskets giveaway for families in the community. To have fun and make the basket giveaway creative for the families, staff from all departments brought imagination and creativity, proudly exhibiting their basket ideas. In all 31 families received a basket filled with various Thanksgiving food items, decorations and a certificate/gift card to obtain a turkey, thus providing them with a Thanksgiving meal they might not have had otherwise. The generosity and benevolence of the staff of NKSP is without compare, as they continually give to needy families and non-profit organizations. Warden Kelly Santoro, Matthew Cauthron of Delano Regional Medical Center and Rafael Silva representing the Delano Police Department, judged the baskets displayed. For the second year in a row, Medical and Nursing Department won Best Overall.

Correctional staff unload a large truck full of wrapped presents.
Santa’s elves wore CDCR uniforms this year, at least during his stop at a local elementary school. NKSP staff delivered gifts to kindergarten students.

North Kern State Prison

CHRISTMAS — NKSP adopted 140 kindergarten students from Kern Avenue Elementary School in the city of McFarland for their annual Christmas Gift Program. On Dec. 11, Santa delivered toys ranging from bikes, scooters, surprises and clothing. The smiles and heart-felt thankfulness from the students and faculty members is what the gift of giving is all about for families who need a little help. The school provided the kids’ names along with a wish list of all the kindergarten students.  Staff from every department adopted a child and unselfishly donated gifts for the children. This marks NKSP’s 12th year of being involved in the Christmas Gift Program, generously providing gifts and smiles for kids who may not have much to celebrate during the holiday season.