More than 194 toys were distributed to kids visiting San Quentin during the holiday season.
One of the recipients was 5-year-old Isaiah, who picked his toy and told his Dad, “I like visiting you; you’re my partner, and I like opening gifts.”
The gifts were distributed over three days to children in the Main Visiting Room and the dormitories in H-Unit.
The 27th annual Toys for Tots program was sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps with help from the Veterans Group of San Quentin, according to member Wesley Eisiminger.
Over the holidays, Gary Copper, chairman of the Toy Committee, and other veterans arranged a toy room with various gifts for boys and girls from newborn through age 17.
Several of the younger children who visited this year’s toy room were apprehensive at first not realizing the gifts were there for them. All that nervousness went away immediately after one of the veterans wearing an elf hat told the kids: “Pick a toy.”
|“It gives me a chance to be around good people with a good purpose”|
Three-year-old Rainni’s excitement turned to tears. She had to wait until after the family finished their visit; however, all her exhilaration returned when she picked up her toy before leaving.
West Block inmate Daniel Gutierrez escorted his 10-year-old brother, Aiden, and his 6-year-old sister, Aaliyah, to the toy room. The excitement and joy of receiving a gift just spread out all over their smiles when they said, “Thank you.”
The intimacy of Christmas and family sprouted throughout the Main Visiting Room as the holiday spirit could be seen on the faces of inmates and their loved ones.
Richard and La-Keesha Richardson literally celebrate Christmas every weekend together. “He’s my inspiration and the love of my life,” she said.
Mr. and Mrs. Ricky Gains believe Christmas gives a special accountability to their relationship. It epitomizes the empowerment of love and support it takes to get through these tough times.
Mrs. Lewis Scott told her husband, “To celebrate Christmas with the man I love is a great inspiration.”
Antoine Wati’s “Grandma Mae,” his mother and Aunt Felicia bring peace, love, joy and happiness to his life every time they come to visit. But “Grandma Mae” said, “Christmas is especially important because it’s all about family.”
Correctional Officer Gavrilchik said: “People put too much on giving gifts; I wish they would realize why Jesus was born. That’s a true believer.”
For VGSQ veteran Mike Upton, this was a unique experience. “It gives me a chance to be around good people with a good purpose.”
Jlynn, the VGSQ sponsor who has spent the last 13 years involved with the toy program, said, “These guys are my second family. I find as much joy spending time with them as I do with my own family.”
If an incarcerated veteran wants to learn more about VHV or if they or their family may qualify for additional benefits, please contact:
Mary Donovan, Executive Director of VHV
PO BOX 432
San Quentin, CA 94964
The VHV website is veteranshealingveterans.org
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