Community Involvement

CDCR donates gifts to students, seniors

The community benefits when staff and incarcerated residents get behind charitable causes such as giving gifts to students or raising money. From volunteering their time to holding food drives, California state employees make a difference.

HDSP, CCC ring bells, distribute toys, donate blood

Bell-ringing: Two Susanville prisons took on the Battle of Badges challenge to ring bells for the Salvation Army on Dec. 13.

Competitors included:

  • High Desert State Prison (HDSP)
  • California Correctional Center (CCC)
  • California Highway Patrol (CHP)
  • Susanville Fire Department (SFD)

At the end of the day, HDSP won the battle, raising $924. Meanwhile, CCC raised $476, CHP raised $274 and SFD raised $208.

The Susanville Salvation Army provides emergency assistance to families and individuals experiencing a temporary, unexpected financial emergency. They also provide summer, back to school, and Christmas programs for youth and seniors in Lassen County. This year’s bell-ringing raised roughly $30,000. All funds raised remain local.

Children: Continuing a three-year tradition, HDSP also purchased gifts for families served by Lassen Family Services. This year staff purchased gifts for 35 children. The organization’s services vary from Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children, shelter for domestic violence victims, parent training, and many others.

(Learn more about the CASA organization.)

Seniors: HDSP and CCC partnered with Lassen Senior Services and purchased Christmas gifts for 25 senior citizens. Additionally, HDSP management helped put together food baskets to be delivered to local seniors. Lassen Senior Services helps senior citizens be more productive and live independently by offering services, information, and activities in which they can participate.

Blood drive: Lastly, HDSP held a Holiday Blood Drive on Dec. 21 with 28 successful donations.

By Lt. Jon Sieberg

Alder Conservation Camp turns into Santa’s workshop

Every year, the incarcerated people who work on the fire crews out of CAL FIRE’s Alder Conservation Camp #20 in the Humboldt-Del Norte Unit, also work as elves for Santa’s Workshop. They build various toys including doll houses, cars, boats, planes, toy toolboxes, gum ball machines, and rocking horses for the underprivileged children of Del Norte County. This year alone, they built 615 toys for the drive. This program is an opportunity for them to give back to the community.

Alder Camp has always been involved with projects ranging from fuels reduction, trail maintenance, road cleanup and disaster response, but building the toys has a greater impact on the incarcerated because they are helping provide gifts for children during the holiday season. Because these toys may be the only gifts the children receive this holiday, incarcerated participants are honored to provide these handmade treasures to the local children.

CAL FIRE Alder Conservation Camp, CDCR and other cooperators work tirelessly to be part of Santa’s Workshop. CAL TRANS, State Parks, National Parks, and Del Norte Tribal Nations donate the wood used to make these toys. This program is an example of the community coming together during the holiday season for a shared purpose and a common goal, providing gifts for underprivileged children.

Submitted by CDCR Lt. Waylon Hanks and CAL FIRE

Ironwood helps senior citizens, children

Ironwood State Prison (ISP) Warden Neil McDowell and CDW (A) Andre Green donated gifts to senior citizens and students in Blythe.

Part of the prison’s annual Secret Santa tradition, on Dec. 22 staff presented gifts at Blythe Post-Acute and to select students from Felix J. Appleby Elementary School.

Prison staff purchased presents for all the seniors at Blythe Post-Acute care center and 60 kids from the school. Staff delivered gifts, sang Christmas carols, told stories and assisted care center workers.

The prison’s Santa helpers then moved to Appleby Elementary School. They distributed gifts for kids with “wish list” items fulfilled by their Secret Santa prison employee. The prison adopted the school in 2008 and has helped ever since.

By Lt. H. Mora

CHCF residents raise money for children

In late November, California Health Care Facility (CHCF) in Stockton held their first 5k Turkey Trot to benefit the Children’s Home of Stockton. The non-profit serves at-risk youth in San Joaquin County by providing comprehensive educational and therapeutic services. Over 130 incarcerated persons took part in the Trot by donating money to the Children’s Home of Stockton. They walked, ran or rolled 12 laps to complete the 5k, raising over $1,300 for the organization.

Custody staff assisted with the Turkey Trot by passing out Popsicle sticks to each incarcerated person as they completed a lap. After the event, participants received slices of pie. Revive Roasters, a local organization in Stockton, donated coffee as a way to support and encourage the incarcerated population during the holiday season.

“Thank you to the staff who planned and coordinated CHCF’s inaugural Turkey Trot and thank you to the individuals who participated in this fun event. As a result of the staff and incarcerated population’s collaborative efforts, the organization was able to purchase additional gifts for the children,” organizers said.

By Lt. W. Lewis

CHCF staff, Santa and Stockton mayor visit elementary school

On Dec. 16, Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with staff from the CHCF, arrived at Marshall Elementary School with two box trucks full of toys and holiday spirit. Staff dressed in Christmas sweaters with jingle bells, Santa hats and demonstrated their newest dance moves to brighten the holiday for students and teachers.

Sources inside CHCF will not confirm if Santa and Mrs. Claus were in fact played by Correctional Lt. Barry Tisdale and CHCF Warden (A) Gena Jones. Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln even helped pass out gifts.

CHCF staff donated and shopped for over 900 toys ranging from drones, skateboards, scooters, remote controlled cars, and 33 bikes. In all, staff spent over $10,000.

Continuing the CHCF tradition, the seventh and eighth graders with the highest grade point average were given a Commitment to Excellence certificate signed by Warden Jones. They were also presented with a Samsung Galaxy tablet. The Overall Most Improved from the same grade levels were also given a certificate and a Samsung Galaxy tablet. In addition to the bikes and toys, eight students who needed shoes were given a pair. The students and teachers were cheered with some crying tears of joy.

“I’ve been a teacher for 32 years and I’ve never seen anything so wonderful,” said one teacher. “These kids really needed this.”

The event was made possible thanks to monetary donations from CHCF staff, CCPOA and the Sunshine Café. Toys were also donated by Fastenal.

“CHCF would like to thank the Stockton Ports for their organization’s generous swag bag donation. Our annual toy drive is our way of paying it forwarding while inspiring the youth of Stockton,” according to a CHCF organizers.

By Lt. W. Lewis

CTF hosts first holiday Visiting toy drive

The Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in collaboration with a veterans non-profit organization hosted their first Visiting Day Christmas Toy Drive on Dec. 25.

During the event, the Watch Commander dressed as Santa Claus. The commander arrived to the Visiting Room in a fire truck, handing out approximately over 300 donated toys and gifts to children of incarcerated parents housed at CTF.

The Veterans Healing Veterans from the Inside Out, the non-profit organization responsible for helping organize the event, assists incarcerated veterans with trauma recovery and suicide prevention.

(Learn more about the Veterans Healing Veterans organization.)

By Lt. Wil Landrum

RJD donates gifts to orphaned children in Mexico

Thanks to RJ Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD) staff, orphaned children in Mexico were able to receive gifts and new clothing. During Brunch with Santa at Rosarita Beach Hotel in Mexico, staff distributed the gifts to the children.

A letter from event organizer Danny Navarro, RJD’s Materials & Store Supervisor, thanked everyone for their efforts.

“Thanks to the Correctional Officers, Fire Captain, and staff at RJD, the orphaned children received an array of clothes and presents. With a profound commitment to spending time with those who are less fortunate, RJD staff, family, and friends came together to make this unforgettable event possible,” Navarro wrote. “A special thank you to all of you who were part of this cherished event, and most of all for creating these inspiring moments of sheer euphoria in the lives of these children.”

Submitted by Lt. A. Garvey

RJD staff take kids shopping

During Shop with a Cop, RJD staff took children on a special shopping trip as well as breakfast at Sea World San Diego.

The Dec. 3 event began with the third-graders riding in a law enforcement vehicle to Sea World for breakfast, a special ceremony and a dolphin show. Then, law enforcement and the children were off to Target.

Students were greeted by costumed characters and given a $200 gift card to purchase gifts for themselves and their family members. RJD staff escorted their assigned children.

Many officers went above and beyond, donating money of their own to ensure the kids received the gifts they truly wanted.

“This was an incredible experience, and all staff who were able to participate said it was their most memorable day working for their department,” according to RJD organizers.

Submitted by Lt. A. Garvey

CCWF donates bikes, gifts to children

The staff at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) purchased 37 brand new bikes for children at Dixieland Elementary School in Madera. The bikes were presented to the school on Dec. 15, and even had Santa Claus participate. Students were also presented with safety helmets.

The CCWF Firehouse took over for Santa’s reindeer, ensuring his safe passage. School staff were thankful to the kind donation and excited for the kids who received a new bike and helmet.

“This is a great opportunity to give back and especially to a school so close to the institution,” said acting Warden Mike Pallares.

On Dec. 21, CCWF partnered with First 5 Family Resource Center of Chowchilla, providing gifts to underprivileged families. The institution was supplied with a list of 10 families, including the age and wish list of the recipients. Staff purchased and donated almost 40 gifts for this charitable cause.

Administrative and custody staff delivered the gifts to First 5. There was even a guest appearance from Santa. A representative from each family, along with a child, arrived and were greeted by prison staff. For some, this was the first opportunity to see Santa.

“The look on the children’s face was thanks enough. I am very proud of CCWF staff and all the hard work that went into making this charitable donation a reality,” said Pallares.

By Lt. S. Rodriguez

CIW hosts gift giveaway for children of incarcerated parents

Warden Jennifer Core and California Institution for Women (CIW) hosted a gift giveaway for the children of justice involved family members during Visiting Christmas weekend. Young visitors were greeted with an invitation to select two of their favorite toys from the gift center. The center was manned daily by the Inmate Advisory Committee.

Both children and their justice-involved loved ones were all smiles during the event. This act of kindness was made possible by the Latter Day Saints Community Based Organization who collected donations from the local community.

By Lt. William Newborg

At end of year, KVSP spreads holiday cheer

Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) staff, Santa and a sleigh full of toys arrived at the Richgrove School for a special event on Dec. 13.

The small rural farming community of Richgrove is home to many low- and fixed-income families.

Before the big day, the KVSP Community Resources Office received wish lists for all of the children in grades kindergarten through third. Staff adopted these wish lists and picked out gifts for each child. As Santa passed out the gifts, the children sat anxiously waiting to unwrap their presents. Finally, Santa gave the go ahead with the words, “Open your presents.”

The gym instantly exploded with excitement as children laughed and shouted, tearing into their gifts. You could hear several children say, “I am so happy to have a gift.” and “I got exactly what I wanted.” Another child excitedly said, “This is the best day ever.”

Some staff held back tears.

“Oh my gosh, I was not expecting this. It’s going to make me cry,” said one staff member. Another added, “My kids are all grown. I wasn’t really in the Christmas spirit until I saw the looks on these kids’ faces. It’s incredible.”

Yet another staff member commented, “This is my first time to do something like this. This is amazing.”

Many of the children gave Santa thank you cards as they received their gifts.

The following day, KVSP’s Community Resource Manager (CRM) Kevin Nugent received an email from Mario Millan, Superintendent/Principal of the Richgrove School District.

“I was at a Tulare County meeting of Superintendents. I was told that once again, it was a magnificent event and our children walked away with nothing but smiles on their faces. Our staff was very impressed with KVSP’s generosity and Christmas spirit. On behalf of Richgrove School District, the community and its families, thank you very much for bringing smiles to our children. It is with actions like this that they learn to believe in the idea of service, gratitude and unselfishness,” the superintendent wrote.

“KVSP has helped to make a great memory for these kids, one that they will speak of fondly and hopefully one day replicate. Please pass on our deepest gratitude to all involved in this gracious and generous project. Thank you,” he continued.

By Lt. John Melvin

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