Santa made a special appearance at the Jackson County Detention Center Thursday afternoon to hand out gifts to children who were visiting their incarcerated family members.
According to Acting Corrections Director, Diana Turner, “The holidays are a tough time for our inmates and their families. It isn’t easy coming here to see their loved ones and we do what we can to make that time less stressful for the families. Our visiting room staff is very committed and sensitive to the needs of our family members and they do what they can for folks who have to come into our facility under truly difficult and unfortunate circumstances. Seeing the kids come in who have to visit an incarcerated parent is difficult and this is a terrific opportunity each year for our associates to get to make that visit just a little better.”
More than 80 gifts were handed out to the nearly 40 children who visited on Thursday. The gifts, which included toys, gloves, hats and blankets, were all courtesy of Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley and Jackson County associates.
Now in its twelfth year, MCC-Penn Valley’s Criminal Justice Association Toy Drive provides toys to children of all ages, from infants to teenagers. Toys are collected from students and staff on campus through mid-December. All of the gifts are then wrapped by detention center associates and handed out to every child who visits a family member, until all the gifts are distributed.
This year, Jackson County joined in on the toy drive in an effort to spread holiday cheer to more children. Giving trees were set up in the courthouse in downtown Kansas City and at the Historic Truman Courthouse in Independence. Associates were encouraged to take an ornament from the tree and purchase a suggested gift.
“The generosity of Jackson County associates never ceases to amaze me. Because of them, we can support the efforts of many organizations throughout the year,” said Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. “It is extra special to help others during the holiday season and our giving tree is a great way to do that. Last year, we donated gifts to JobOne. This year, we are proud to share in the joy of our detention center staff, who look forward to bringing smiles to kids’ faces.”
The MCC Toy Drive project started with students and now includes faculty and staff. Dr. Karen Curls, social science division chair at MCC-Penn Valley, has been involved with the toy drive since its inception, as has administrative assistant Donna Wallace.
“This effort comes so much from the students and I couldn’t be more proud,” Curls said.
The MCC Toy Drive, which collects 100-150 toys each year, is also in conjunction with the MCC’s Brooks Institute.
“We are grateful for the efforts of the students and the administration of the Penn Valley Community College to make this event happen through their time and generous contributions,” Turner said. “We’d also like to thank our staff for the donated gifts and time spent wrapping presents for the children so Santa would have something for everyone. A truly successful jail operation depends heavily on successful community partnerships and we are enthusiastic about the support from the Penn Valley family.”
While wrapping presents Acting Deputy Director of Corrections, Isaac Johnston, said, “This is a great program. It lets us know that everything is not personal between the public and the inmates. With the inmates that can’t go home for Christmas it gives them something to look forward to so it’s not only a good tool for Christmas but it’s a good tool for us in managing the inmates and having a good atmosphere for the holidays.”