Surprise gifts will be waiting for children who will visit their families at the Jackson County Detention Center this holiday season thanks to students and employees at MCC-Penn Valley.
For the past 11 years, the Criminal Justice Association has collected toys to donate during the holiday season. They are able to give between 100 to 150 toys each year for children that span from infants to teenagers . The Jackson County Detention Center employees wrap the gifts and give them to every child that visits a family member until the gifts are all distributed.
The idea for the annual toy drive stemmed from discussions during a criminal justice class . Students wanted to do something that would have an impact. After further thought, students decided providing toys for incarcerated parents to give to their children during the holidays might mitigate some negativity associated with having a mother or father in jail.
Fox 4 reporter Katie Banks spoke to families who received the gifts. A mother and her 7-week-old baby boy were surprised with Santa and a gift as they waited their turn to visit the child’s father.
——–“It`s kind of sad,” said Angie Estrada, “because you can’t really have contact with that person. It`s just glass.” “It was beautiful!” Estrada said. “I didn`t expect that. I just thought I came to visit!”
It’s that sad situation that inspired corrections officers to lift their spirits with surprises – an internal holiday tradition made possible for the tenth year thanks to the Criminal Justice Department at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley.
“[They are] pretty much surprised,” said Joe Piccinini, jail director. “That`s the last thing they expected to see at the jail, with Santa Claus handing out presents. You can just see their face light up. It`s really unexpected and they`re very happy to receive it.”———
The gesture that started with students now includes MCC faculty and staff. Dr. Karen Curls, social science division chair on the MCC-Penn Valley campus has been involved with the toy drive every year.
“The sensitivity of our students for our community has always impressed me. I am so proud of our students and the effort to continue this tradition,” said Curls.
Frank White, former Royals hall of fame legend, MCC alumnus and currently the Jackson County Executive, posted on Twitter a thank you to the students and employees for the community service.
To learn more about the criminal justice programs offered at Metropolitan Community College click on the link below.