Community Involvement

CDCR staff make holidays merry, part 2

Across California, CDCR and CCHCS staff purchased gifts, toys, and food to make the holidays brighter for the community. This is the second of a three-part roundup of stories showing the department’s commitment to being community involved.

ISP staff provides holiday gifts to seniors, kids

By Lt. Heriberto Mora

Children and seniors had a brighter holiday thanks to the efforts of Ironwood State Prison (ISP) executive staff and Warden Neil McDowell. The institution joined other CDCR efforts to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

They provided presents to seniors at Blythe Post-Acute and select students from Felix J. Appleby Elementary School.

The event was part of the institution’s annual Secret Santa tradition.

ISP staff purchased Secret Santa gifts for 45 seniors at Blythe Post-Acute.

They also bought gifts for 45 children from a school ISP staff adopted. Gifts were included for the household siblings.

First, the morning saw the ISP employee’s wrapped gifts unloaded. staff at the resident senior care living center distributed the gifts safely.

Everyone followed COVID-19 safety rules during all of the gift wrapping and distribution.

The ISP team then moved to Todd Park. There select families with interval appointments picked up gifts for the TK-8th grade kids.

The ISP staff bought electronics, bikes, and more. The children were all smiles as they picked up and opened their presents at the park’s gazebo.

In 2008, ISP adopted Felix J. Appleby Elementary School.

CDCR CIW investigators brighten holidays

By Lt. Andrew Mendoza

California Institution for Women (CIW), Investigative Services Unit (ISU) Correctional Officer N. Gonzalez felt her blessings.

CDCR officer wearing mask and holding small dog
Even the family dog gets attention from a CIW officer.

Earlier this year, she told her fellow CIW ISU team members how thankful she is that her career allows her to provide for her family.

Officer Gonzalez emphasized she is especially grateful during these trying times. ISU Officer Gonzalez proposed that the CIW ISU team provide a Thanksgiving meal for a family in need.

ISU Officer Gonzalez coordinated with Heel the Soul, a non-profit organization, who found a family in need. Heel the Soul helps children from local schools with shoes, school supplies, and other necessities.

This inspired CIW ISU Correctional Officer Bowers to further the effort.

He coordinated with Helping Hands Ministry of Mt. Zion Church to provide additional support for families in need.

Helping Hands Ministry acts as an emergency source of services to disadvantaged families in the form of food, clothing and transitional housing.

ISU Officer Gonzalez and ISU Officer Bowers collected money from each ISU team member.

Fixings for turkey dinner

The money bought groceries to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The team also purchased turkeys to be distributed to families who attend Mt. Zion Church.

Heel the Soul identified a family in need for ISU Officer Gonzalez. The family’s matriarch is the sole provider for her four children.

On Nov. 24, CIW’s Chief Deputy Warden Jennifer Core along with the CIW ISU team, delivered Thanksgiving dinner to the family.

CIW ISU team and CDW Core’s next stop was Mt. Zion Church to deliver the turkeys they purchased. They were welcomed by Pastor Richard Young who was grateful and took photographs of the CIW ISU team. 

Officer Gonzalez said, “I am hopeful our efforts will make a positive impact on multiple families.”

Effort extended to Christmas

The CIW ISU team was so touched by the family’s response that they wanted to visit them for Christmas.

On Wednesday, Dec. 23, the team re-adopted the family. They brought them a Christmas tree and gifts to put under the tree. 

Again, they collected money from each team member for gifts for the family.

They bought pots and pans, a heater, blankets, television, and backpacks for the school aged children. Each family member received two new outfits and socks.

Daily house-hold items were also purchased such as toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, hand soap, water, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and candy for the children.

The family expressed their gratitude to the CIW ISU team for their generosity during the Thanksgiving and Christmas.

CCWF, VSP staff, incarcerated population aid community

Three women wearing masks stand amid toys
Three members of the CCWF staff sort toys to be wrapped and delivered.

By Lt. Gene Norman

Central California Women’s Facility staff provided more than 1,000 toys to children at two local schools.

Each year CCWF staff hold a toy drive for local schools in Madera County. This year, CCWF staff were able to donate toys to every child who attend two local schools.

The are Stephens Elementary in Chowchilla (TK-2nd Grade) and Pershing Elementary in Madera (TK-6th Grade).

Staff volunteers assisted with the sorting the toys by grade and gender.

Donations come from staff, volunteers, community

Community Resources Manager (CRM) Courtney Cipriani said, “I went to the store about seven times and filled my car each time. We were so grateful to receive donations from some of our volunteers, community stakeholders and staff.

“This is such a tough time of year, and everyone really came together to reach our goal to serve two local schools. I worked with admin staff at the schools to figure out the best possible way for a safe distribution,” Cipriani said.

“We came up with a ‘Drive-Thru Toy Drive.’ As the children were driving through to pick up their distance learning packets, we were able to hand each one of them a new toy,” Cipriani said.

“This is a great way to show a positive Correctional presence within our community, which is important,” said Warden Mike Pallares. “We know the children within our community have had a tough year and this is a great way to put a smile on their face.”

CCWF, VSP join to help skilled nursing center residents

Another holiday event was held in conjunction with the Community Resources Departments at CCWF and Valley State Prison (VSP).

The effort provided 160 residents at the Madera Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center with pumpkin pie, treat bags, blankets, scarves and a fabric mask.

“This is the second annual “Caring For Seniors” event that Carmen Maroney (VSP CRM), CDCR staff and I have done,” Cipriani said.

“With many nursing homes like this one being isolated from visitors, we are very glad to be able to deliver them some holiday cheer from a distance,” said Cipriani.

CCWF incarcerated population fundraiser brings $18,000

The incarcerated population fundraiser in October at CCWF raised over $9,000 for the Madera Food Bank.

The fundraiser sold 2,263 large pizzas from Pilot Travel Center. When Pilot Corporate heard of what the CRM and the Madera Pilot store were doing, they wanted to write a story about it.

Cipriani explained to Pilot’s corporate office how and why the money was raised.

“They did not take long to let me know that they had decided to match our donation,” Cipriani said. “This money will directly help feed those in need within our community.”

The inmates at CCWF also agreed and voted to donate to the Madera Food Bank as their sole recipient of the fundraiser. This brought the amount raised between CCWF and Pilot to over $18,000.

NKSP comes through for special needs children, nursing facility

Masked people stand behind tables with gifts on the tables
NKVSP staff await with gifts for children in special education.

By Lt. Keith Garrett

North Kern Staff Prison (NKSP) staff donated gifts and clothing to those in need of all ages this holiday season.

On Dec. 18, Santa Claus along with NKSP staff came to town. They delivered Christmas gift to Special Education Students at Caesar Chavez High School in Delano. 

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, gift delivery came via a drive-through. This allowed Santa to hand each child their Christmas gift.

Erica Lopez, special education instructional care aide said the event ” made me personally emotional seeing the priceless reactions and smiles on our beautiful students faces.

“That wouldn’t be possible without amazing people like all of you,” she said.

Warden Santoro sees giving as NKSP tradition

Warden Kelly Santoro said staff from NKSP always enjoy giving back to the community. They especially like to give during difficult times like these when the children need more help than ever.  

On Dec. 16, NKSP staff delivered much needed winter items to the Delano District Skilled Nursing Facility.

The nursing facility has 140 residents under their care. NKSP staff from all departments purchased all of the items requested by the nursing facility.

The items included beanies, gloves, socks, winter style slippers, sweaters and hygiene products.

Staff greet residents from outside facility

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, items were left at the front entrance. NKSP staff interacted with residents through the windows. They wished the residents a merry Christmas from outside.

The smiles on their faces was priceless and truly showed what the gift of giving is really all about.

The facility’s Activity Director Olivia Holquin expressed a heartfelt thank you and really emphasized how much the winter items were needed during this difficult year.

High Desert State Prison, California Correctional Center adopt families

By Dianne Morrison, CRM Office Technician
High Desert State Prison

The employees of High Desert State Prison (HDSP) and California Correctional Center (CCC) each year seize the opportunity to take on the annual Lassen Senior Services Angel Tree.

The Angel Tree wishes received range from fruit cake to hired house keeping for a day, and the employees do what they can to make the wishes happen, even asking local businesses to help with bigger items.

Susanville Real Estate graciously donated a house cleaner while Zaengle’s Furniture and Floor Covering donated a dining room table to make two senior citizens’ holiday wishes come true. The greatest part of this event is delivering an abundance of wrapped gifts to the Lassen Senior Center where Executive Director Penny Artz is always there to greet with a smile and lots of appreciation. Together with the staff of HDSP, CCC, and other members of the community, Lassen Senior Services were able to deliver a total of 51 gifts for senior citizens in the Lassen County area.

This year, the HDSP Community Resources Manager’s (CRM) Office received one wish from a Senior Angel Tree participant that spurred giving to another area of need. The Angel Tree Participant simply wrote one wish, and that was to give a gift to a foster child. Together, the employees of HDSP and CCC were able to give 58 gift cards to local foster children.

The employees of HDSP didn’t stop with the senior citizen Angel Tree and the gift cards for foster children, they also wanted to include children who are involved with Lassen Family Services. For that, staff from HDSP, Susanville Real Estate, and Town and Country Real Estate were honored to give wrapped gifts for 27 children, which included bicycles, clothing, toys, and more.

The employees of HDSP also contributed to a food and hygiene drive for the Lassen Senior Center, where they were able to deliver a non-perishable food, toothbrushes, and toilet paper for senior citizens in need.

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