Probation Employees Help Spread Holiday Joy To Struggling Families
Probation employees across the Commonwealth are making sure that children and their struggling families are being remembered during the holidays.
Here are some examples of generosity exhibited by Probation employees and their Trial Court colleagues:
In Berkshire County, Berkshire Probate & Family Court provided children with toys and clothing through its fourth annual “Adopt a Family” effort. Probation employees receive a Christmas Wish List from the local office of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). This year, Probation employees assisted a homeless family consisting of a mother, father, and 3-year-old and 15-month-old daughters. The family was gifted with glassware, dish set, princess toys, food donations, and grocery store gift cards. The drive was coordinated by Probation Case Specialist Kim Corlew-Draper and Alida McDarby, a Judicial Assistant in the Registry of Probate Office.
Another Probate & Family Court employee, Probation Officer Partricia Garvey organized a coat drive for the Berkshire Community Action Council which hopes to outfit 2,200 children and adults with winter clothing.
In Bristol County, Fall River District Court Probation Officer Michael Borden has been conducting a toy drive for local children for nearly two decades.
When he first became a Probation Officer, Borden said he was saddened by the abject poverty he encountered when making home supervision visits to offenders. It was this experience that moved him to begin the toy drive.
“Some children did not have a bed to sleep on never mind a toy under the tree,” Borden said.
Borden’s toy drive is a year-round proposition. He collects toys, bikes, and games throughout the year. He stores them in his basement, from floor to ceiling. Borden has collaborated with local and social service agencies, the YMCA, and formed alliances with local businesspeople and the Hasbro Toy Company to collect toys for distribution. Borden also partners with Fall River Police who accompany him when he delivers the toys to the children. There are toys at the Probation Department which are given to offenders for their children. Probation employees also clothed 45 children this year.
In the past, Borden and his elves, volunteers from the court and community, have passed out more than 5,000 toys to children and families in need each year. On average, this team fulfilled the Christmas wishes of up to 500 children, Borden said. This year, Borden anticipates providing 2,200 toys to about 250 children. Hasbro, one of its major donors, closed its company warehouse.
“Things changed dramatically due to the downturn in the economy. Because of this, we have had to take a harder look and provide for the most destitute. We are going to the homes of the recipients to interview them to make sure toys are going to those who truly need them. We will find a way to make Christmas a happy time for these children.”
Also in Bristol County, another Probation employee, Gloria Arruda, Probation Operations Manager in the Bristol Probate and Family Court, is helping spread the holiday spirit and keeping people warm too. The 40-year Probation employee organized and collected hats, mittens and scarves for donation to the local Salvation Army. Arruda has led similar efforts in the past for both children and senior citizens. One year, she organized a charity drive which provided senior citizens with supermarket gift cards. Another year, she led a holiday drive for a young boy stricken with cancer. Arruda also collected items such as toiletries and snacks to send to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“She has amazing energy and I am lucky to have her,” said Chief Probation Officer Michele Mullin of Arruda.
In Middlesex County, Newton District Court Probation employees filled the tables of disadvantaged families by providing them with turkeys. Employees collect donations from court staff and bought the turkeys from local supermarkets. The turkeys are given to Newton residents who are in need and to charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Meridian and Hello House in Boston. Newton District Court Probation and Clerk’s Office employees rang bells and collected money for the Salvation Army. Probation employees also collected gifts for the Toys for Tots Program.
“The Newton District Court Probation Department has been donating turkeys to those less fortunate for years. This program, led by the Probation staff, grows bigger every year,” said Chief Probation Officer Richard Guzzi.
Woburn District Court Probation employees have provided Christmas joy for children in the Woburn area through its toy and food donations to Woburn Council for Social Concern. This marks Woburn District Court’s 14th year of making the season brighter for local children. The court also conducts a food drive at Thanksgiving.
“It always feels good to give but at this time of year, it makes it more special,” said Kimberly S. Hall, Woburn District Court Probation Manager and coordinator of the Christmas charity drive.
In Plymouth County, Plymouth District Court Probation Office Supervisor Mary Putney introduced the idea of raffling items employees have at home that are not in use and donating the proceeds to those in need.
“The raffle has been a huge success with items donated by many of the departments. It was a fun way to collect money for those in need this holiday season,” said Chief Probation Officer Carole Bambrick.
In Worcester County, Uxbridge District Court Probation employees collected toys and donated them to the local police station which sponsors a toy drive.
“Probation Officer Janice Hinson found out that the Uxbridge Police collected toys for kids so we all got involved,” said Uxbridge Distict Court Chief Probation Officer Patrick Foley.
For the 10th year in a row, Worcester District Court Probation employees prepared individual gift bags, containing head-to-toe outfits, warm outerwear, and a toy for children at Worcester Comprehensive Child Care Services, Inc. in Worcester. Seventy bags were distributed.
Each year, Assistant Chief Probation Officer Matt Deveau plays Santa. His elves this year were Associate Probation Officer Keith Leavitt, Probation Officer Jacqueline Benoit, Probation Operations Supervisor Gloria Diaz, and Probation Case Specialist Joe Harrity. Probation employees Lois Ciuffredo, Probation Officer Manager; Probation Office Supervisor Pamela Therrien; and employees from Worcester Superior, the Clerk’s Office, and the Worcester Police liaison donated the gifts and clothing.
“This year, the kids were so excited. One little boy was anxiously awaiting his turn to get his bag. When Santa finally handed the bag to him, which was taller than he was, he hugged it,” recalled Ciuffredo.
Worcester District Court Probation employees also opened Hope’s Closet, a closet stocked with clothes, household items, toys, and toiletries. These items, donated by Worcester Court Complex employees, are given to clients in need. Therrien, and Ciuffredo keep the closet stocked and in order. One of the first visitors to the closet was a young woman, who was eight months pregnant. She was given baby clothes and a baby monitor.