This is the third installment highlighting the efforts of CDCR staff and inmates who endeavored to improve the holidays of those in need. Staff volunteers at participating facilities included CAC, CCC, CCHCS, CHCF, CIW, CMC, CMF, CCWF, DAPO, Folsom, HDSP, Kern Valley, Mule Creek and Valley State Prison. (Read part 1 and part 2.)
California City Correctional Facility donates gifts, meals
By Lt. S.M. Parker
The staff at California City Correctional Facility (CAC) graciously gave many donations of Christmas gifts and holiday meals to many local children and families this season.
During the second week of December, CAC staff donated two trees for the California City Hacienda Elementary School Festival of Trees annual fundraiser, with a total of $620 in attached gift cards that were presented to local families in need.
The third week of December, CAC staff also adopted nine local families, with 10 adults and 30 kids. The recipients were showered with piles of Christmas gifts, complete Christmas holiday meals, and even Christmas trees. Many of these families otherwise would not have had gifts to celebrate the season.
On Dec. 20, 2019, CAC Staff went to the Community Action Partnership of Kern Head Start program, where 34 children were presented wrapped gifts to open, as well as Christmas cookies and juice.
California Correctional Center/High Desert State Prison
By Lt. Charlene Ruggiero
HOLIDAY WITH A HERO — Many local law enforcement agencies donated money to fund the local Holiday with a Hero Event, including the California Correctional Center. Inmates at CCC participated in a Christmas Photo Project raising $2,062.50, which was donated to Lassen Family Services (LFS) to help raise the Holiday Spirit in the hearts of children in the local community. LFS selected hundreds of children who are less fortunate, and gave them a Christmas to remember by using the donated money to purchase gifts to enhance the Christmas spirit. Many heroes from local law enforcement agencies including CCC and High Desert State Prison peace officers, fire fighters, California Highway Patrol, sheriff deputies, military troops, and many others met at the local fire department before sunrise, while the children gathered at Wal-Mart meeting up with volunteers from the community, patiently waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.
Just prior to sun rise, Law Enforcement vehicles paraded through the parking lot with lights and sirens blazing as the children waived in excitement. As the sun began to rise in the sky, a SEMSA helicopter circled above with a special visitor on board. As the helicopter landed, Santa stepped out and the children began screaming and yelling “Santa, Santa.” Santa handed candy canes to children as he made his way to his chair just inside the store.
Hundreds of heroes filtered into the store, meeting up with volunteers to take a special child shopping for gifts to fill their Christmas with joy. As a special hero greeted a child, the Miss Susanville Sweetheart handed each of them a candy cane before they began their adventure.
Not only did the children have a delightful time picking out special gifts, the law enforcement officers, military troops, and firefighters were overwhelmed with joy as they played in the aisles with hand puppets, picked out special outfits and toys, and had their faces painted with the children. Santa shared a moment with the children as they expressed their Christmas wishes and received an overflowing stocking. As the shopping spree concluded, the children joined their parents and the heroes left with happy hearts.
ANGEL TREES — California Correctional Center and High Desert State Prison staff enhanced the holiday spirit with local Senior Citizens within the community by purchasing items on their wish lists, which hung on the Angel Tree at both institutions.
Staff gave generously as most purchased everything on the wish lists of over 45 senior citizens which included items such as houseplants, pet food, blankets, clothing and televisions.
The presents were delivered just prior to Christmas to ensure every person received something special during the holiday season.
California Correctional Health Care Services
By Peter Quinones
California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) held the Fourth Annual CANstruction competition on January 7, 2020.
This event capped off the annual food drive with programs creating displays from non-perishable food items.
CCHCS Headquarters employees voted for the “Staff Pick,” and winner took home the roaming trophy to display in their area until next year. The “Best Overall Display,” judged by an Executive Staff team, won a Pizza Party for the entire program.
There were five entries:
- Quality Management: An R2-D2 Star Wars robot complete with sound effects
- IT: A computer screen-shot of an “End Hunger” video
- Health care Invoicing: A lit up tower bridge
- Region 1: A fireplace and Christmas tree
- Policy and Risk Management: An octopus combined with a playable ring toss game
Staff Pick this year went to the Policy and Risk Management team for their Octopus/ring toss creation.
The Best Overall category was a tie, and went to the Quality Management and Policy and Risk Management teams.
Hundreds of pounds of cans and other non-perishable food items were donated by this fun event, with all food and proceeds going to the Sacramento Food Bank.
California Correctional Institution
HELPING CHILDREN — On Dec. 14, the California Correctional Institution (CCI) Chapter of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) brought donations and spent time with children of the Jamison Children’s Center in Bakersfield. The center is the only 24-hour emergency shelter in Kern County for neglected and abused children.
These children have typically been taken into protective custody by local law enforcement or social workers. While donations are always a display of generosity, the efforts of the CCI Chapter did not stop there. CCI Chapter members Dave Crounse, Ivan Castenada, T. C. Davis, Mike Gonzalez, Debby Spears, Ramces Ceja, Cody Gallardo, Steven Durham, Joe Jolley, Bryan Lindsey, James Robinson, Jeff Davis, Tilden Reed, and Adam Richter, as well as Warden Joe Sullivan, all interacted with the children at Woodward West in Tehachapi.
Woodward West is a large complex/campus (there are multiple locations around the country) where kids are given an environment to embrace and advance in various sports. World-class facilities and highly regarded staff are a staple of Woodward’s locations. The CCI Chapter participants shared pizza, bowled, and watched a bike show put on by the Woodward West staff. The day concluded with a visit from Santa, with the kids being able to pick gifts to take with them when they returned to the Jamison Center.
HELPING THE HOMELESS — The California Correctional Institution chapter of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) fully embraced the spirit of the holiday season when they visited the Bakersfield Homeless Center on Dec. 4.
The group helped serve meals for a couple hours, prepped meals for the next day, cleaned tables, swept floors, washed dishes, as well as a donation of $500 which was accepted by the Executive Director of the Bakersfield Homeless Center, Louis Gill.
CCI Chapter members in attendance were James Robinson, Jeff Davis, Bryan Lindsey, Joe Jolley, Joe Cisneros, and Adam Richter. The Bakersfield Homeless Center provides an average of Five Hundred warm, nutritious meals each day, three times a day, every day of the year for sheltered clients, as well as members in the community of Kern County.
California Health Care Facility
By Lt. Wilona Lewis
VISITING — The California Health Care Facility (CHCF) Visiting Department helped bring Christmas cheer to inmates and their visitors. CHCF’s goal is all minor children who visit our facility will know the magic of Christmas can still take place in prison. All inmates with minor visitors received a gift to give to their loved ones.
The children enjoyed tearing off the ribbon, bows and wrapping paper and inmates and their loved ones were able to enjoy Christmas cheer.
One inmate said, “I’ve never been able to give my children anything for Christmas but CHCF’s Visiting department made it possible for me to give my grandchildren a Christmas gift.”
Another inmate said, “I was always locked up and was never able to give my younger brother a Christmas gift. I will never be able to repay CHCF’s visiting department for allowing him to give my brother a gift card.”
Mr. and Ms. Claus made a special stop at CHCF and everyone was thrilled. Santa had his naughty and nice list and a big red bag full of toys donated by CHCF staff.
One visitor said, “When Santa called out my grandson’s name, no words could describe how he lit right up and my heart welled up with emotions.” CHCF staff donated over $2,000 to buy Christmas gifts and donated over 100 new toys.
SCHOOL HELP — CHCF staff surprised 200 local school children by attending their winter performance and giving each child a Christmas gift.
California Institution for Women
By Lt. Rosie Thomas
On Dec. 18, the California Institution for Women (CIW) participated in the first CIW Fire “Stuff the Truck” food drive. The unique food-drive idea was brought to light by Keith Tront, CIW’s Fire Chief.
Fire Chief Tront said while driving to work one day, he had thoughts of how he could help better serve his community and the idea hit him. He started researching food banks in the area and discovered Feeding America. The organization services over 300 community partners in the Riverside County area ranging from soup kitchens to domestic violence shelters. Only a week away from the holidays, he had to act to organize the food drive.
Fire Chief Tront pitched his idea to his Fire Captains and received a positive response. He also incorporated his inmate fire fighters who were ecstatic to be a part of the food drive. Fire Chief Tront said the inmate fire fighters were representing CIW’s inmate community by giving their time to assist with the food drive, as they could not make donations this year.
Inmate firefighter Cortez said, “I had a great time being part of something positive for my community and show how the fire house program is a positive reinforcement to my rehabilitation.”
Fire Chief Tront, Fire Captain Benjamin Clough and their inmate fire fighter crew set up their donation station along with their fire engine at CIW’s main entrance. As staff entered and exited the institution, CIW’s Fire staff and inmate fire fighters received great support, receiving $1,400 along with numerous non-perishable food items.
CIW utilized the $1,400 to purchase items for holiday meals. As staff maneuvered the aisles of the various stores, they were approached by civilians at each stop inquiring about the large purchase of food. CIW staff explained the food purchased would be donated to Feeding America, and received words of praise for all CIW staff. While at Grocery Outlet, owner Stephen Reed, who also donates to Feeding America, thanked all CIW staff for their generosity. Reed also donated a full cart of bread to add to the items purchased.
Andrea Richards, Philanthropy Coordinator with Feeding America, was amazed at the quantity of food donated by CIW. Ms. Richards was also overjoyed to see CIW’s donation tip the scale at over 1434 pounds.
When asked what his wish was for the next CIW Fire Stuff the Truck event, he said, “This experience was very rewarding and I would like to see other institutions’ Fire Stations participate as well as find a way to incorporate the inmate community to make next year even bigger.”
California Medical Facility
By Lt. Brady Olivas
California Medical Facility (CMF) held a Holiday Cheer concert for staff and inmates. The Holiday Cheer concert featured song-and-dance numbers by the CMF Voices of Harmony, a staff and inmate choral ensemble.
Throughout the year, the group collectively worked with staff and inmates to bring joy this holiday season to our CMF community.
The event highlighted staff and inmates collaboratively working together in crafting the musical production.
“I’ve never seen so many smiles inside an institution,” said Chief Deputy Warden, Dan Cueva. “I couldn’t be prouder of CMF.”
The event did not disappoint and was appreciated by numerous staff and inmates who enjoyed cookies, brownies and hot cocoa.
The chapel was festively covered with holiday decorations. To help reinforce the holiday spirit, staff sported ugly sweaters.
“It’s great seeing everyone collaboratively coming together, promoting a positive atmosphere,” said C&PR Marnie Collins.
California Men’s Colony
By Lt. John Hill
In November 2019, California Men’s Colony (CMC) Correctional Officer D. Irwin presented a grass-roots idea to CMC Warden J. Gastelo. Officer Irwin, and a group of CMC staff members who share an interest in 4-wheeel-drive vehicles and off-road excursions, wanted to give back to the local communities. The group wanted to encourage CMC’s staff members to take part in the “Season of Hope” toy and food drive, which benefits families and the less fortunate in the communities of San Luis Obispo County.
The idea was to combine the group’s love of off-roading with their spirit of giving and charity, and Warden Gastelo immediately approved the idea.
At 5 a.m. Dec. 6, members of the Coastal Mountain Crawlers 4×4 Off-Road Club held their first toy drive.
Members of the club set up coffee and doughnut service while displaying their off-road vehicles in the parking lot of CMC. The challenge presented to CMC’s staff was simple: Fill the 4×4 sleighs with toys.
Officer Irwin believed the event was “a great way to give back to those who are less fortunate.”
When the event ended at 9 a.m., nearly 500 toys had been collected.
“The CMC family as a whole came together and exceeded all expectations,” said Officer Irwin.
When all the toys had been collected, the club headed to a local business where the toys were donated for distribution by the San Luis Obispo City Fire Department.
Central California Women’s Facility
By Lt. Rudy Diaz
TOY DRIVE — Staff from Central California Women’s Facility delivered toys and bicycles to a couple of local schools. The convoy was led by Warden (A) Michael Pallares and included the Fire Engine Crew, Correctional Officers, Investigative Services Unit, Crisis Response Team and other employees from CCWF.
All year long CCWF, has proven that when it comes down to helping others in need, CCWF finds a way to come together and get it done. This Christmas, staff conducted a toy and bicycle drive.
Approximately 1,200 toys were personally delivered by our staff to schools in our local community: Fuller Elementary in Chowchilla and Millview Elementary in Madera.
Each student was giving a toy or bike. Each classroom also took a photo with Santa and his helpers on the fire engine.
UGLY SWEATERS — This holiday season, staff participated in an Ugly Holiday Sweater dress up contest. The spirit was everywhere throughout the institution and the event captured a large turnout of staff participation. Staff voted for the ugliest sweater and prizes were awarded to the winners. This marks the second year of the event.
By Lt. Anthony Petersen
On Dec. 21, CSP-Corcoran staff collaborated with Assembly member Rudy Salas’ office, Kings County Probation, City of Hanford, Hanford Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Avenal Sheriff’s Department and Aria Organization to bring some good cheer and happy smiles to children in Hanford, Stratford, Kettlemen City and Avenal. This was the sixth annual No Child Left Behind Toy Drive. The children all received a present and the families received a food basket with all of the fixings for a Christmas meal. CSP-Corcoran donated approximately 60 toys for this event and approximately 50 Christmas stockings.
Deuel Vocational Institution
By Lt. Sean Parsons
On Dec. 21, Lt. Mark Jackson and his son Nikolas delivered toys and gift cards to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Staff at Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) donated the toys to benefit children battling cancer. Nikolas Jackson battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for two years and was treated at the Cancer Center. He has been in remission for three years now and Nikolas has made it his mission each year to give back to Stanford and the children treated there with a toy drive. Lt. Jackson said the staff and patients at the Cancer Center were extremely supportive and compassionate during his son’s treatment and hopes that the toy drive can return some of the kindness that he and his son received. This year, the staff at DVI donated 165 toys, the largest turn out yet. It is Nikolas’ hope that the event gain momentum with more donations and participants each year.
El Monte Parole District
By Christopher Hernandez, Parole Agent III
STAFF APPRECIATION — On Dec. 11, the El Monte Parole District halls were filled with scents of holiday food as well as the sight of ugly sweaters worn by staff. With over 50 staff present at the event, the team also gathered to discuss the best strategies to assist parolee families in need of assistance during the holiday season. They also recognized the agents and support staff who went above and beyond for the past year. All presenters had inspiring remarks and praised each member of their team for their unique skill and contribution to the department.
By Dominique Hughes, District Administrator
HELPING FAMILIES — On Dec. 20, the El Monte Parole District helped make the holidays brighter for 50 parolees and their families. Parole agents, supervisors, and support staff, along with retired Parole Agent II Harold Dennis, hosted their first Food and Toy Drive. The conference room was festively decorated with a tree, garlands, silver bells, candy canes, serving as a cheerful background for the toys and food baskets.
Dennis provided the food baskets and El Monte District staff sponsored the families who participated in this joyous occasion. Children took pictures with Santa Claus as refreshments were served.
Each family was able to leave with a warm holiday spirit, several toys, and a traditional holiday food basket. The children’s faces lit up as they received toys such as bicycles, dolls, stuffed animals and games.
Holiday food baskets contained turkey, dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce, corn, and a box of cornbread. Several families stopped to thank the staff as they were leaving. Additionally, several staff expressed they felt great by giving back to community they serve.
Folsom State Prison
By Lt. Ernie Valencia
For more than three decades, Folsom State Prison (FSP) and the Rotary Club of Cameron Park have helped needy children and the homeless in the community through a bicycle repair program. The partnership between the prison and the Rotary club has been in operation since 1986.
Discarded bikes are dropped off at the Veterans Hall in the city of Folsom by the community year round. These bikes are usually in need of major repair but sometimes they are bikes that children have simply outgrown. The bicycles are then brought to FSP Minimum Support Facility (MSF) where inmates Lopez and Juarez work hard at repairing and restoring the bicycles. The Rotary Club assists in repairing the bicycles by donating parts and paint to the program. Bicycles beyond repair are stripped of any usable parts and sent to a metal recycling program.
The restored bicycles are donated to children in need and the homeless in El Dorado County. The Rotary Club collects the restored bicycles from FSP and work with local schools to identify children from less fortunate homes. Bicycles are distributed in December for Christmas. They are also distributed again in May for the summer. This year’s Christmas donation was particularly special. Of the approximately 120 bicycles, the Rotarians sent 60 to the Paradise Fire victims. The remaining 60 bicycles were distributed to Union Gospel Mission, Mather Veterans Group, Volunteers of America and Alameda County Probation.
Kern Valley State Prison
By Lt. John Melvin
SCHOOL TOY DRIVE — In the spirit of Christmas, Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) staff chose the gift of giving. As the old saying goes, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.” This was on full display Dec. 11, 2019, as KVSP staff passed out gifts at the Richgrove Elementary School.
KVSP holds an annual toy drive every Christmas for a nearby school. Richgrove Elementary, located 15 miles from the prison, is in a small town of about 3,000 population. This was the first year that any community outreach program had selected Richgrove Elementary for such an occasion.
This was also the largest gift drive that KVSP has ever undertaken, more than doubling the number of gifts needing to be donated. Prior to the event, KVSP received wish lists for all children at the school and staff members adopted these wish lists to pick out the perfect gift for each child.
KVSP staff, along with the help of Santa Claus, delivered and passed out 390 wrapped Christmas gifts to students from preschool through fourth grade. KVSP staff and Santa also passed out over 200 gift cards to students in fifth through eighth grade. The event was truly heartwarming and flooded the gymnasium with Christmas spirit.
Some of the KVSP staff could be heard saying, “My kids are all older now and I had forgotten what a magical time of year this was for young children.” Another staff members said, “This is what it’s all about. Seeing these kids’ faces is priceless.”
WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA — In many homes, there is an empty seat for one who is serving or one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Each December, on National Wreaths Across America Day, the mission to “Remember, Honor and Teach” is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 2,100 additional locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.
One of those was the Visalia Cemetery. From the Revolutionary War to present day conflicts, our veterans are devoted sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers. They come from all backgrounds in life to place those lives on the line for our freedoms.
In Visalia, the Wreaths Across America Coordinator is Kern Valley State Prison’s (KVSP) Associate Warden Jenna Castro.
She began fundraising in October 2019 alongside several Veterans Groups, Gold Star families, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Visalia Civil Air Patrol and KVSP.
There are 4,020 veterans laid to rest at the Visalia Cemetery and there were 352 wreaths purchased by the local groups.
On Dec. 14, 2019, approximately 100 people attended the event at the Visalia Cemetery. KVSP donated $2,500 through a food sale, purchasing 166 wreaths. The KVSP inmate population donated another $388 through trust withdrawals. The ceremony was presented by Visalia Civil Air Patrol Commander Johnny Castro.
CSP-Los Angeles County
By Lt. K. Graves
TOYS FOR TOTS & WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT — California State Prison, Los Angeles County (LAC), Investigative Service Unit K-9s gave back to the community in support of the Toys for Tots and Wounded Warrior Project held at Chick Fil-A in Palmdale.
Rain, snow, or shine, Officers J. Robbins and A. Karanikolas swung into action to receive loads of toys from residents of the Antelope Valley and from those who were just passing through the community. The toys collected were distributed to local children in need of holiday cheer.
TOY DRIVE — LAC joined forces with the Antelope Valley Partners for Health (AVPH) on Dec. 19 to successfully collect over 500 toys during the annual Toy Drive. Every donation matters when bringing joy to deserving children. The children and youth were filled with happiness and glee as they were able to choose an unwrapped toy to kick off the holiday cheer. Special thanks to the Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU and ASU/EOP), and Counselor Pixley for showing up in full force with a truck filled with toys.
Mule Creek State Prison
By Lt. Angelo Gonzales
Each year, Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) teams up with the Amador County Sheriff’s Department to make the holidays brighter for the less fortunate families in the local community.
Over the years, MCSP employees and employee organizations have worked together to gather and donate thousands of toys to families living in the communities of Amador County.
This year was an exceptional year for the Toy Drive. This would not have been possible without the generous donations of toys and the hard work of the volunteers from MCSP.
PARADE — On Dec. 14, MCSP staff and families loaded the toys onto a decorated float. The MCSP Toy Drive float, Honor Guard, two cruisers and MCSP Fire Engine participated in the City of Ione’s annual holiday parade. As the MCSP caravan proceeded down the parade, candy was tossed to the waiting children along the parade route. At the end of the parade, MCSP staff and families loaded the toys and bikes onto a waiting Amador County Sheriff’s Office trailer. The toys were delivered to the Saint Sava Mission in Jackson.
TOY DISTRIBUTION — On Dec. 21, volunteer staff from MCSP and the Sheriff’s Office teamed up at Saint Sava Mission to distribute thousands of toys to the less fortunate children of Amador County.
“To see the end result of our staff’s contributions was truly remarkable and the looks on the faces of the receiving families were thanks enough. During the busy holiday season, it is great to have so many dedicated staff willing to take time out of their busy day and away from their families to give back to the local community,” according to MCSP organizers.
Los Angeles Central and Mid City Parole Districts
By Tranisha Tate, Parole Agent III Supervisor
Photos by Taneshia Mason, Parole Agent III (A) Supervisor
The Dec. 19 Los Angeles Central and Mid City Parole Districts’ seventh annual Food and Toy Drive was a great success. Supervisors, Parole Agents and support staff were involved in the planning for the event for months. The employees are dedicated to assisting ex-offenders with successfully reintegrating back into the community. During the holiday season, the two districts collaborated to help over 80 families in need.
Staff, other individuals and community stakeholders within the community made monetary donations (including Harold Dennis, Parole Agent II Specialist) to purchase the food and refreshments for the families. They also helped in preparing and filling bags with turkey and other food, as well as setting up displays of toys for the children.
The families received food, toys and refreshments at the event. Children’s toys were donated by The Marine Toys for Tots Campaign, as well as Inglewood One Stop, Friends Outside and staff members.
Harold Dennis, a retired Parole Agent II Specialist; Joel Torres, a retired Parole Agent III; and Jerome Marsh, a retired Chief Deputy Regional Administrator, were instrumental in purchasing and transporting the food to the Alameda Complex. They have been part of this annual event for the past seven years. Agent Kevin Riley, who was Santa Claus, helped put smiles on the children’s faces.
Pine Grove Youth Conservation Center
Pine Grove Camp youth experienced a special morning with Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, every youth at Camp had the opportunity to meet Santa, get a picture and receive an individual gift. The gifts were personal towels with hygiene items wrapped inside. Youth also received a handful of candy in addition to their Christmas gift. These gifts were bought and put together by Pine Grove staff Tammy Johnson and Donna Wurm. This is a tradition the two staff members work on every year for camp youth. Santa was played by Superintendent Jim Liptrap.
By Kenya Williams
Supervisor of Correctional Education Programs
The Education Department of CSP-Solano once again took the lead in servicing the Seniors of Fairfield, Vacaville and Suisun cities. The goal this year was is to serve 250 seniors through the Senior Connection Program. CSP-Solano partnered with local senior centers, rehabilitation centers, residential living agencies and CDCR personnel.
The first group served was Suisun City Senior Center. This center provides a safe place for seniors to receive a balanced meal, enjoy recreational activities and receive mental stimulation. The program provides services for 80-120 seniors five days/per week. CSP-Solano provided 186 shoeboxes filled with gifts, toiletries, and large print word search puzzles. The CSP-Solano inmate-run Reaching Our Community Crocheting (ROC) Club provided hat and scarves. This inmate service group often provides crochet items for cancer patients, the homeless and the seniors.
The other recipients of this year’s efforts from CSP-Solano were the Paramount House residents. This assisted living facility located in Fairfield houses the elderly and developmentally disabled individuals living on a very limited income.
Both agencies received gifts, food and in some cases coats from the staff at CSP-Solano.
Prison volunteers provided 333 gifts this year.
Valley State Prison
By Lt. David Barksdale
Valley State Prison’s (VSP) Community Resources Office recently thanked staff for their efforts to help the community, especially around the holiday season.
PEDAL POWER — Between August and December, the bike refurbishing program donated over 320 bikes to local needy children and families
MENTORS FOR KIDS — VSP held their first holiday gathering to acknowledge the unique Beyond School Walls (BSW) Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program. The prison partners with BBBS and the local school district to provide staff mentors for local youth.
ADOPTING A FAMILY — Staff food sales raised over $2,400 between November and December. Combined with donations from staff, the prison adopted a local family comprising 12 children, including twin girls who lost their mother and aunt in August 2019 due to a tragic traffic accident. “As a result we helped make this family’s holiday wish list come true in many areas including a trip to Disneyland, a family dinner at their favorite local restaurant, clothes, toys, and a shopping spree,” organizers said.
VETERANS — Staff donated 200 cases of canned food to Red Cross and Veterans Economic Commission in Fresno for homeless veterans and their families.
SENIOR CITIZENS — In December several staff including the Warden and Community Resources Office went to pay a special visit to the residents of the Chowchilla Senior Citizens Home to provide lunch, gifts, activities, singing, and a special visit from a therapy dog.
TOY DRIVE — In December, prison staff provided over $3,000 worth of cash, toys and warm winter clothing to the Chowchilla Veterans of Foreign Wars and Chowchilla Task Force’s local Toy & Coat Drive.
THOSE IN NEED — In December, staff provided donations to Friends of Fairmead for their 10 homeless winter care packages including canned items, hygiene, mittens, hats, scarves. Staff also donated 10 needy family food baskets including a complete holiday dinner for each family.
FLAPJACKS FOR KIDS — For the fifth year a row, staff visited Cesar Chavez Elementary School for their annual Pancake breakfast, which is free to students and families. Staff donated items such as whipped cream, strawberries, milk, butter, marshmallows and candy canes.
SALUTING VOLUNTEERS — On Dec. 18, VSP hosted their seventh annual Volunteer Banquet at the Madera Arts Council to honor the many volunteers who bring rehabilitative programs inside the prison. This event was made possible thanks to the generous donations of staff and local businesses including Savemart, Pilot and the Madera Arts Council.
Compiled by Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor