Story by Ike Dodson, CDCR PIO
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Photos by Youth Correctional Officer Christopher Rotondo
Youth Correctional Officers Crystal Velasquez and Christopher Rotondo rolled into the Manteca Walmart parking lot at 7:30 a.m. on their day off Oct. 20 and attacked the aisles like a tactical operation.
The two targeted stuffed animals, baby food, hygiene items and candy ― the things left behind when several fires scorched nearly 200,000 acres of California landscape in early October.
To help counter the devastation that killed 42 people, leveled 8,400 structures and caused more than $1 billion in damage, correctional staff at California’s Northern California youth correctional facilities in Stockton rallied together a horde of donations for the victims of those fires.
Velasquez and Rotondo loaded the bounty of their Manteca shopping spree into the bed of Rotondo’s white Ford F-150 and made a pit stop at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility, where fellow staff added to the haul.
The final count ― 20 cases of water, two big bags of toys, stuffed animals, four bags of clothing, six blankets, four bags of hygiene items, three bags of baby supplies, three cases of food, a few cases of juice, a few cases of snack packs and some miscellaneous items.
The provisions stayed snug in Rotondo’s truck bed as the officers hit a Starbucks on their way out of town before an hour and a half goodwill trek to Napa.
They delivered the goods to the Salvation Army at the Napa County Emergency Operations Center, which had run out of toys and blankets, and was about to turn families away.
Their timing was perfect.
“Velasquez and I wanted to thank everyone that made donations for us to take to Napa for the victims of the North Bay fires,” Rotondo said Friday. “The volunteers were very thankful.”
Chuck Supple, Director of the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), was elated to see his staff rally together to support Northern California fire victims.
“I wholeheartedly thank our staff at the Northern California Youth Correctional Center who commandeered this charitable effort for the victims of the fires, once again demonstrating that their caring reflexes reach well beyond their jobs in our facilities and into our communities in need,” Supple said.
The Salvation Army and the Napa County Emergency Response Center is still accepting items, cash and gift cards for families displaced by the fire. You can learn how to donate at disaster.salvationarmyusa.org.
Since fires continue to char property and families are still struggling to rebuild, even humble relief efforts provide vital resources to recovery.
In Rotondo’s F-150, blasting whichever country music station they could pipe into the radio, Velasquez and Rotondo showcased the best traits of California’s correctional staff.
You don’t need to “clock in” to make a difference.
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