The young shoppers got a full police and fire escort to the Blythe Kmart for the event.

The young shoppers got a full police and fire escort to the Blythe Kmart for the event.

By Lt. Mike Smith, AA/Public Information Officer
Iron Wood State Prison

Employees from two prisons in Blythe once again demonstrated their giving spirit by participating in the annual Civil Servants for Santa event. Every year, multiple law enforcement and fire agencies hold this event for the less fortunate children in Riverside County.

CVSP Chief Deputy Warden Chuck Callahan helped shoppers choose their gifts.

CVSP Chief Deputy Warden Chuck Callahan helped shoppers choose their gifts.

Led by the Blythe Police Activities League (PAL), agencies such as Blythe Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol (CHP), Riverside County Fire Department, Blythe Fire Department, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) and Ironwood State Prison (ISP) raise more than $10,000 for this event. Riverside County Child Development Services select 100 less fortunate children to meet Santa Claus and shop at the local K-Mart with a gift card for $110 each.

Each child is paired with a civil servant from one of the aforementioned agencies and may spend the money on anything they wish.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Department employees participated in the event as well.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Department employees participated in the event as well.

At the onset of the day, the children and civil servants meet at the Joe Wine Recreation Center, where they await the of arrival of Santa Claus, who is flown in by helicopter. From there the excited children are loaded onto shuttle vans and given a full police and fire escort, complete with lights and sirens, to the K-Mart parking lot. Every child is randomly paired with a volunteer civil servant and the shopping commences.

In most cases, the civil servants often cover the overage cost (from their own pocket) when the toys or gifts selected by the child goes beyond the $110 gift card. Each child and their bounty are returned to the recreation center, where they receive the toys and gifts they purchased and are provided a lunchtime meal.

“This is the most rewarding event of the year,” said Acting Warden Neil McDowell. “For many of those children, their only interactions with law enforcement are negative. This event gives the children a positive impression of public servants and it gives us a way to give back to the community.”

ISP Acting Ward Neil McDowell gets in the holiday spirit.

ISP Acting Ward Neil McDowell gets in the holiday spirit.

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