Community Involvement

Volunteers help schools, charities

Staff volunteers from CDCR, CCHCS and DJJ continue to help families and children through fundraising, gift donations and community involvement.

In danger of losing special event, CRC helps school

When California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) learned a local special-needs school was in danger of canceling their breakfast with Santa, staff volunteered their time and money to help make it happen.

Victress Bower School in Norco serves 68 severely handicapped students. The school relies on donations and volunteers to keep running so when they lost a major donor, they didn’t have the funds to finance the breakfast. Warden Glen E. Pratt and the executive team rallied CRC staff, raising $8,500 to donate to the school, not only paying for their special event but also funding a new playground for the children.

Warden Pratt and CRC volunteers visited the school to help serve breakfast and hand out gifts to students, their families and school employees.

Principal R. Marsh thanked CRC for their help. The warden pledged annual assistant with the special breakfast and told the principal they should be prepared for next year.

“Now that CRC is involved, these special children haven’t seen anything yet,” Warden Pratt said.

Learn more about the school.

Submitted by Lt. Joe Lopez

North Kern prison staff volunteers help two schools

In mid-December, North Kern State Prison (NKSP) volunteers helped Santa Claus deliver over 150 presents to students at two schools.

McFarland’s littlest Bobcats at Kern Avenue Elementary and Delano’s Thunderbirds special-needs students received gifts and a visit from Santa.

“We were grateful to provide holiday gifts to Kern Avenue Elementary in McFarland and Robert F. Kennedy High School special need students. Employees of NKSP pride themselves in spreading the holiday cheer to our youth during Christmas,” said Warden Kelly Santoro. “Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces is extremely rewarding for all of us here at NKSP. Also, of course, we offer a special thank you to Santa Claus for his assistance.”

Submitted by Lt. Joseph Lopez

CIM hosts first Grinchmas Party for 45 families

California Institution for Men (CIM) hosted a special Grinchmas Holiday party for 45 families in need on Dec. 16.

The Chino Valley Employees’ Association (CVEA) and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) Chino Chapter adopted the families. The recipients were selected working with case managers at the Chino Hope Family Resource Center.

(Learn more about the resource center.)

CVEA and CCPOA volunteers took on the roles of elves and assisted Santa, as well as the Grinch, to host the CIM Grinchmas Party. Elves served dinner to 126 children and 45 parents.

Nine oh Nine Photo Booth was on site, donating their services capturing countless smiles of kids and parents alike. Home Depot donated wooden Christmas ornaments, paint and supplies for all kids to enjoy. Boy Scouts of America also contributed by donating bagged popcorn.

Each family was asked to provide a wish list of items they would like to receive. The entire CIM family including custody, nursing, health care, business services, plant operations and Prison Industry Authority contributed gifts as well as gift cards to preferred grocery stores.

Warden John Merchant and his executive team attended the festivities, excited to share in the holiday season. They said they enjoyed seeing the smiles on all of the faces.

By Lt. Manuel Vega

CMC tree ‘Silent Night, Jedi Knight’ supports charity

On Nov. 25, a Christmas tree adorned with Star Wars themed gifts and ornaments was displayed in the Town Center Mall in Santa Maria. The tree, sponsored by California Men’s Colony, has gifts and decorations valued at nearly $3,000. Dubbed “Silent Night, Jedi Knight,” the tree supports Altrusa of the Central Coast’s Festival of Trees.

All trees and their gifts were auctioned off Dec. 11, with proceeds benefiting the Altrusa non-profit organization.

Altrusa provides services to those in need, such as:

  • Mariposa House, a group offering services and shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Lompoc Children’s Hospital
  • Pioneer Valley High School
  • Righetti High School student programs that provide hand-made blankets to cancer patients and hold holiday events for children

The organization also offers literacy programs, book giveaways for local children, scholarships and grants to community members, particularly high school and college-aged student to further their education.

The festival of trees is the major fundraiser supporting the Altrusa scholarship and grant program.
CMC’s entry included a $1,000 Disney gift certificate, an animated Death Star tree topper, life-size cardboard cutout of R2-D2 and C-3PO, a light saber, and a Williams-Sonoma R2-D2 popcorn maker.

CMC Warden Samuel describes the event as an “awesome opportunity” to give back to our community.

Correctional Officer Maria Castillo, who spearheaded CMC participation for several years, plans to continue to assist with CMC’s entry after her planned retirement in 2023.

By Lt. John Hill

See more community involvement stories.

Follow CDCR on YouTubeFacebook and Twitter.