Community Involvement

Holidays find CDCR volunteers helping community

CDCR, CCHCS and DJJ employee volunteers can be found throughout the state helping the communities they serve, especially during the holidays. This is the second installment of stories detailing the generosity of staff and the incarcerated population. (This story will be updated. Read the first story.)

California City Correctional Facility delivers gifts

Staff from all departments of California City Correctional Facility came together in the spirit of Christmas and adopted families as well as six youth group homes. Areas of the prison, such as Plant Operations, Records, Personnel, Correctional Counselors, Medical, Business Services, CCPOA and custody, joined in the effort.

In all, staff donated food and provided gifts for over 22 families, or nearly 90 people.

CCC staff ring bells, gather toys, take part in Holiday with a Hero

From raising funds through the Salvation Army to gathering gifts for Toys for Tots, the staff at California Correctional Center (CCC) go into the holiday spirit.

HOLIDAY WITH A HERO — California Correctional Center (CCC) was proud to participate in the annual Holiday with a Hero event in Susanville on December 18. The Lassen County law enforcement agencies and the community joined together and donated money to give underprivileged children a Christmas to remember. CCC donated $3,086 to the effort.

The morning began with local law enforcement agencies and first responders meeting at Lassen Community College. From there, all personnel went to children’s homes passing out presents.

Two prison staff ring bells for Salvation Army.
Ringing bells for the Salvation Army are Bonnie Cole, left, an AGPA with the CRM’s office, and Community Resource Manager (A) Kim Gregor.

BELL RINGING FOR THE COMMUNITY — CCC staff competed with High Desert State Prison (HDSP), Susanville Fire Department, and Janesville Fire Department in the Battle of the Badges Bell Ringing contest.

On December 14, all local Law Enforcement staff stood at local stores ringing bells, passing out candy canes, and bringing holiday cheer to all while collecting donations for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign.

This year, the four Law Enforcement Agencies raised a total of $1,253 for the Salvation Army.

This year CCC won the challenge, bringing in a total of $581. All proceeds collected for the Red Kettle Campaign will fund the Salvation Army Social Services Program, helping the Lassen County families in need. 

TOYS FOR TOTS — On December 16, CCC Warden Suzanne Peery and Chief Deputy Warden (A) Rob St. Andre presented a donation to Lassen County Toys for Tots.

The non-profit organization, founded by the United States Marine Corps to provide underprivileged children with gifts for Christmas.  In Lassen County this year, approximately 700 children received gifts from the Toys for Tots program which is supported by the Lassen County Search and Rescue. 

Multiple organizations in Lassen County provide toys and financially contribute to the Toys for Tots program each year. Together, the CCC incarcerated population raised $1,810 from food sales. CCC staff collected approximately 100 toys for donation to the Lassen County Search and Rescue Toys for Tots program. CCC Staff also participated in an ugly sweater contest with Chief Deputy Warden (A) St. Andre winning the contest. 

CMC tree draws donations; staff goes to Battle of the Badges

TREE — California Men’s Colony (CMC) Correctional Officer Maria Castillo was determined to make the Altrusa of the Central Coast 2021 Festival of Trees as successful as it has ever been. Her determination payed off when festival organizers determined CMC’s entry was responsible for the most raffle ticket submissions for any entry in the festival’s history.

The actual total was not provided by Altrusa leaders.

Altrusa provides grants, scholarships and literacy programs for community members in need, and the festival serves as Altrusa’s chief fundraiser.

Beginning November 26, trees adorned with traditional decor and gift cards were displayed in the Santa Maria Town Center Mall. Trees were sponsored by civic groups, companies or organizations, and the gifts that accompany each tree were donated and symbolic of the tree’s theme. Mall patrons purchased raffle tickets and placed those tickets in collection boxes next to the tree they hoped to win. Winners received the tree and all of the gifts surrounding it.

The 2021 entry from CMC, themed “Gamer’s Gonna Game,” was made possible by the generosity of CMC’s staff. The CMC entry included gifts such as a PlayStation 5, a Samsung UHD television, a Rocker brand-name gamer chair and many other gamer-related gifts.

BATTLE OF THE BADGES — On December 11, the seventh annual Central Coast Battle of the Badges was held in Atascadero. The annual charity event served as a fundraiser for various local organizations, and featured peace officer or firefighter athletes who competed against each other in boxing and mixed martial arts.

California Men’s Colony (CMC) Correctional Officer Terry Cook, who is the event’s founder, and CMC Office Technician Sarah Meagher organized the 2021 Battle of the Badges in hopes of providing financial aid to the CMC Employee Benefit Fund (EBF), Operation Underground Railroad and the Atascadero Police Department (APD) K-9 Unit.

The CMC – EBF provides financial assistance to CMC employees and their families when financial hardships arise while Operation Underground Railroad fights to eliminate child sex trafficking.

When the bell was tolled to signify the end of the final round, $30,000 had been raised. Of that total, $7,500 was donated to the CMC – EBF, $7,500 was donated to Operation Underground Railroad and $15,000 was donated to the APD K-9 Unit.

Submitted by Lieutenant John Hill

CIM staff help local families in need

The California Institution for Men (CIM) staff were fortunate enough to assist the city of Chino with some holiday cheer. The community of Chino purchased over 50 bikes to hand out at a Christmas function, the bikes were still in the box and CIM coordinated with the city for the bikes to be dropped off and assembled by the CIM Facility D Vocation Department. When the incarcerated students heard the bikes will go to deserving children, they came together and assembled all the bikes in one day. The bikes were delivered and staff from CIM joined the city’s effort to distribute toys to the neighborhood children.

CIM staff also adopted 30 families in the area to help them have a merry Christmas. CIM worked with the Chino Unified School District who produced names of families for us to deliver presents. Also, the Chino Valley Employee Association worked with the city to find deserving families and coordinate the type of items to donate. Staff reported that the families were appreciative, saying unforeseen circumstances meant these may be the only gifts their children receive. Chief Deputy Warden Travis Pennington said it was heartwarming watching staff come together to make a family’s holiday enjoyable.

Submitted by Lieutenant Tom Lopez

Plant Operations at PVSP adopt four families

CDCR volunteers and a Santa with a truckload of gifts.
PVSP staff joined Santa to distribute gifts to four families in Huron.

The Pleasant Valley State Prison Plant Operations department adopted four Huron families for Christmas. Headed by Plant Operation AGPA Victoria Graham, the team reported to Huron and provided each of the families with a Christmas tree, warm blanket, food, clothing/shoes, toys and gift, bicycles, and stocking stuffers presented by Santa Claus.

By Lieutenant Michael Harris

NKSP holds three toy drives and no-contact stop at a senior center

On December 9, North Kern State Prison (NKSP) gathered 79 gifts for foster youth at Aspiranet Hope Forward Family Services. A week later, staff partnered with Santa Claus to deliver over 136 gifts to McFarland’s Kern Valley Elementary School.

On December 17, NKSP and Santa partnered once again to deliver gifts to the Delano’s Thunderbirds special needs students

Lastly, on December 22, NKSP made a no-contact fly-by and dropped off 106 gifts to the Delano Senior Center.

“We were grateful to provide holiday gifts to the children of Aspiranet Hope Forward Family Services, Kern Avenue Elementary in McFarland, Robert F. Kennedy High School, and our senior citizens of Delano,” said Warden Kelly Santoro. “Employees of NKSP pride themselves in helping the community as much as they can year after year.  Seeing the smiles on the faces of the children and senior citizens is extremely rewarding for all of us here at NKSP. And, of course, a special thank you to Santa Claus for his assistance.”

Submitted by Joseph Lopez, Community Resource Manager

CSP-Solano helps families in need through Angel Tree, food drive

ANGEL TREE — CSP-Solano staff made Christmas wishes come true for 150 local children in need through the Angel Tree Program with the Salvation Army. The gifts totaled approximately $7,500.

CSP-Solano staff sponsored these children by purchasing gifts on their wish list. Staff also partnered with the Salvation Army to help distribute the gifts to the parents for them to wrap and put under their Christmas trees.

FOOD DRIVE — CSP-Solano staff pulled together and donated non-perishable food items to the Vacaville Storehouse. The organization was able to give 100 families a large bag of groceries with the donated goods collected by CDCR and CCHCS staff just in time for the holidays. 

The Vacaville Storehouse is a distribution center for families in need in Vacaville. The food is given free of charge. 

Submitted by Marlaina Dernoncourt, acting Community Resource Manager

Folsom prison donates 200 refurbished bicycles for Christmas

For more than three decades, Folsom State Prison and the Cameron Park Rotary Club have taken broken bicycles and turned them into shining examples of the Christmas spirit.

This year’s Christmas donation of 200 restored bicycles were donated to Grizzly Flats Caldor Fire Group, Union Gospel Mission, El Dorado County Probation, El Dorado County Office of Education and Alameda County Probation.

Since 1986, the bicycle program has helped less fortunate children and the homeless in the community.

Submitted by Lieutenant Ernie Valencia

CMF spreads Christmas cheer to 930 elementary school students

California Medical Facility (CMF) along with the Employee Activity Committee (EAC) brought an early Christmas to all 930 students at the Edwin Markham Elementary school in Vacaville.

The students were asked to write their Christmas wish list in early November. Led by CMF employees Jennifer Smith and Patricia Moreira, along with other volunteers, set out to fulfill those wishes through donations.

There were a wide variety of gifts ranging from bikes, dolls, clothes and books, to beds and video game systems.

One fifth-grade teacher recalls when CMF took part in a similar event in 2008. At the time, the teacher was a student at the same school. She said she still remembers that day and what a tremendous impact it had on her. .

It was this student-turned-teacher, along with Smith, who initiated the new Markham Holiday Outreach.

Markham, a Title 1 school, has over 70% of students who come from low-income families, foster home or are considered homeless.

Submitted by Jason Beckstead Correctional Counselor III

Correctional Training Center donates over $1,000 to children

During the month of December, the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center (CTC) partnered with Galt Police and Cosumnes Fire to give back to the Galt community. Thanks to the efforts of all involved, 400 under-privileged children were given a brighter holiday season.

Thanks to the generosity of staff and cadets, the CTC was able to donate over $1,000 in gift cards as well as a truckload of toys.

“We appreciate all of the contributions and bringing joy into a child’s life,” said CTC organizers.

CHCF distributes toys at Montezuma School

On December 17, Santa, along with staff from California Health Care Facility (CHCF), arrived at Montezuma School with a box truck full of toys and Christmas cheer.

Acting Warden Robert Burton, Head Elf Public Information Officer Wilona Lewis, American Sign Language Interpreter John Hendricks, and Correctional Officer Daisy Hernandez were just some of the CHCF staff present for the magical day.

Sources inside of CHCF will not confirm if Santa was in fact Correctional Lieutenant Daniel Robinson. Nevertheless, CHCF staff dressed in Christmas sweaters, Santa hats and jingle bells, displaying their best dance moves to spread Christmas cheer to the students and teachers of Montezuma School.

CHCF staff donated and shopped for over 1,200 toys. The gifts ranged from drones, skateboards, scooters, enough bikes to give two per grade, building blocks and remote controlled cars. In all, gifts totaled $10,000. In addition to the toys, the seventh- and eighth-grade students with the highest grade-point average were given a Commitment to Excellence Certificate signed by Warden Burton, along with a Samsung Galaxy tablet. Also, the Overall Most Improved students from seventh and eighth grades were given a certificate and a Samsung Galaxy tablet.

This huge accomplishment was made possible by monetary donations from numerous staff as well as:

  • California Correctional Peace Officers Association
  • California Correctional Supervisors Organization
  • Mobile Med
  • Sunshine Café
  • Big Lots
  • Walmart.

Toys were also donated by Chicano Correctional Workers Association, FedEx, and Pride Industries.

CHCF would like to thank the Stockton Heat for their donations of toy Zambonis, bobble heads and Stockton Heat game tickets. CHCF would like to also thank the Stockton Kings for their organization’s generous donation of 400 Stockton Kings hats.

Submitted by Lieutenant Wilona Lewis

CTF, SVSP help feed 60 families, provide gifts for kids

Thanks to the efforts of CDCR employees and community partners, approximately 60 local families received dinner and gifts during the annual Cops Giving Tree. December 10 event was a collaboration with the Soledad Police Department, Soledad Unified School District, Correctional Training Facility (CTF), Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP), and members of the local community.

The CTF Employee Action Committee (EAC) raised $3,000 that was donated to the Cops Giving Tree. The funds were utilized to purchase toys, food and beverages for the event

While waiting for Santa to arrive, families enjoyed dinner and dessert served by CDCR staff and Soledad Police.

During the event over 150 gifts were handed out to families and children by CTF Warden (A) L. A. Martinez, the Soledad Police Chief and Santa Clause.

Submitted by Lieutenant Wil Landrum

CSP-Sacramento staff help children, seniors in need

CDCR employees gathered gifts for children and seniors in need.
CSP-Sacramento employees donated gifts for those in need as part of the Gifts From the Heart program.

California State Prison, Sacramento, (SAC) staff helped over 110 children, foster youth, and seniors through the Gifts from the Heart Program.

While many celebrate the holidays surrounded by friends, family and gifts under the tree, this program remembers those who may be without, including local foster children, extended youth, dependent adults, and seniors.

For the last 30 years, the lives of thousands are touched each holiday season by Sacramento County’s Gifts from the Heart Program, an annual gift-giving program running from mid-November until early December. The program serves those within the Child Protective Services, as well as those in Senior and Adult Services of the Sacramento County Department of Child, Family and Adult Services.

Submitted by Lieutenant Erik Alvatter

Santa and CDCR volunteers surprise Alpaugh School students

On December 14, CDCR employees from the California Substance abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison at Corcoran (SATF) and volunteers, came together to provide over 220 gifts to the Alpaugh School District. Every child from pre-school through sixth grade was given a gift. SATF has long been involved with the small community of Alpaugh

SATF staff go above and beyond every year. In particular Vanpool 455, led by Correctional Officer Antonio “Tony” Leal. Every year he picks name tags for two full classes and purchases all the gifts. He said none of this could be done without the staff who ride their Vanpool, in addition to his wife Donna.

“We look forward to this event every year,” he said.

Once all the gifts have been collected, they are sorted, wrapped and organized by classroom. This is a task taken on by Litigation Coordinator Jason Barba, Office Technician Cherrie Chavez and many others. As Santa enters the school, the kids’ faces light up. Inside the Santa suit is Correctional Counselor III Dannion Cunning. One classroom sent a handmade thank you card.

“Thank you to all of this year’s participants who donated gifts, money, and time to make this another memorable moment for this small Alpaugh School,” said Officer Leal.

Submitted by Lieutenant Brent Urban

CCWF distributes toys to school children

On December 16, staff from Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) were able to surprise the students at Fairmead Elementary School with toys from Santa.

Over 450 toys were given to the students who were surprised and happy to receive the unexpected gifts.

The CCWF Fire Department was also on hand, allowing the children and chance to see the inside of the fire truck.

“It’s always great to be able to give back to our communities and seeing the smiles on the faces of the children was priceless,” said Warden M. Pallares.

Submitted by Lieutenant Gene Norman

Santa gets help from Pelican Bay State Prison

Smith River Fire Department engine.
Smith River Fire Department helped deliver gifts to the family of fallen staff member Lt. G. Ramey family.

Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) Peer Support, California Correctional Peace Officers Association PBSP Chapter, and multiple areas of the institution came together to deliver holiday spirit and support.

The entire intuition came together for the annual Operation Santa, an effort to provide gifts to local students from one of the Crescent City elementary schools. This year Pine Grove Elementary School was chosen and more than 100 gifts were delivered. PBSP, Facility A, won the friendly competition, providing 50 of the needed gifts. Captain David Blythe challenged his staff on Facility A, and matched them dollar for dollar. Facility A raised over $900 and bought wrapped gifts.

For families of staff who recently passed away, support was found at PBSP.

Peer Support held a toy drive for the family of fallen Correctional Lieutenant G. Ramey, providing the entire family with gifts and gift cards during a tough holiday season. PBSP Cares and the local CCPOA Chapter helped raise $12,000 for the Ramey family. Also, Smith River Fire Department helped deliver gifts to the Ramey family.

PBSP Cares also provided financial support for the December 11 Celebration of Life for James “Jim” Loftin, who worked as a carpenter at the prison for 10 years. The Crescent City native passed away November 24. Loftin was survived by his wife Tammy of 39 years, two sons and three grandchildren.

Warden Jim Robertson said he was very pleased with all that has been done, and with all that will be provided to our community.

“This place never ceases to amaze me. The staff here always come together for each other and our community. The staff here are bar none and I’m proud of the folks here every day,” said Robertson.

Submitted by Lieutenant Kenny Price

San Diego Male Community Reentry Program takes part in toy drive

On December 19, selected Male Community Reentry Program-San Diego participants and their children participated in the Hope Toy Drive. The event, hosted by New Vision Ministries and San Diego Police Department, allowed the participants and their children to receive toys while taking part in pro-social activities.

Under the supervision of the assigned CDCR Program Manager, these events inspire participants to reunify with their children in a supervised positive manner, bridging their family reintroduction, reunification and rehabilitation efforts.

Learn more about MCRP.

Submitted by Mike Hagemann, Correctional Counselor III,
Program Manager, Male Community Reentry Program – San Diego

Wasco State Prison-Reception Center Honor Guard marches in parade

CDCR honor guard members hold flags.
From left are Officer Bryan Garza, Officer Daniel Gutierrez, Sergeant John Escareno and Officer Adrian Dominguez.

Wasco State Prison-Reception Center (WSP-RC) Honor Guard represented CDCR in the community during the Christmas parade.

The Honor Guard participated alongside other first responders and agencies such as the Kern County Fire Department, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and Hall Ambulance.

The WSP-RC Honor Guard led the parade while presenting the nation’s colors while Santa rode aboard a Kern County fire truck. Wasco residents lined the streets and paid their respects by standing and cheering the Honor Guard members as they made their way through the parade route. The festivities ended at the local high school where the ceremonial tree lighting event took place.

Story by Cecil Scott, Correctional Counselor II

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