Santa’s Red Suit sported a SJVC logo for three students hoping for a brighter Christmas
Three Temecula campus students and their families enjoyed a much happier Christmas this year than they could have imagined. Their financial situations would simply not allow for very much under their scantily decorated tree – if there was a tree at all. But a holiday tradition started by Kent Chivington, Program Director for the Criminal Justice: Corrections (CJC) program, was about to expand across the Temecula campus to benefit three unsuspecting students.
For several years Mr. Chivington asked faculty members to submit names of students who might appreciate a little help with the bare spots under their Christmas trees; and each year one name was chosen. Because this year is especially difficult for everyone and COVID-19 safeguards have moved many classes to remote learning, Mr. Chivington decided to open up this Christmas giving event to benefit three students selected from all medical, business and technical programs.
“At the beginning of December, I sent an email to faculty for names of students in need,” says Chivington. “I got names within 3-4 days.” Three students were selected and notified of their Christmas surprise. Each was asked for names, ages, clothing sizes and wish-list items of family members. All were grateful and eager to participate.
With that information a family tree for each student was set up on a white board with gift labels for each family member and their ‘wish list’. Staff, faculty and students who wished to contribute could select a gift label with an item they wished to provide. There were requests for clothing, shoes, dolls, video games, Legos, headphones, gas cards and store gift cards.
Those ‘Santa Helpers’ could also contribute money to a VenMo or PayPal fund set up toward these purchases. That money would be used to not only purchase some of the items but provide a little Christmas cash for each family.
Those three students who would benefit from this wide scope of generosity were overwhelmed at the holiday support they were about to receive.
Mr. Chivington’s first call was to a student who became quite emotional. “She was going through a rough time with a medical issue for her son and her father’s recent death.” The holiday support from SJVC could not have come at a more needed time. She and her four children, ages 4-17 had many practical needs and a few wishful items. What four-year old would not want something related to Spiderman or dinosaurs?
Christmas was also brightened for a student who has an 11-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. It is often difficult for children to understand why they cannot have their Christmas lists materialize under the tree. So, both were delighted to find their interest in art met with colorful art supplies, as well as warm clothing and shoes for the winter months ahead.
Chivington got a very moving response from a male student who is currently living in a truck parked in a friend’s backyard. Chivington explained this annual Christmas event and what others were doing for him this holiday. “He told me no one had ever helped him like this before. We barely held it together on the phone.”
This student is pushing through one of the most difficult times of his life. “He runs an extension cord to his truck at night and is still able to get his homework done and get to his labs” says Chivington.
The Temecula campus, along with a little assist from a faculty member on SJVC’s Ontario campus, came through. “It was humbling to see how many faculty members wanted to participate and the amount deposited (in the VenMo and PayPal accounts),” says Chivington. “There were substantial amounts being put into the accounts and it was something I did not expect and really appreciate.” The contributions topped out at over $1,000.00.
It was a team effort. “That didn’t even include all the gifts that our students and other faculty members contributed,” he continues. “CJC students bought, wrapped and brought in so many gifts and money collected. That was pretty cool.”
When all gifts were collected – except for those online selections sent directly to students’ homes – Kent Chivington and his wife, Heather, rolled up their sleeves and went right to work. “Heather has always been very supportive, and she was the organizer,” he says. “She did all the research on Amazon and wrapped most of the gifts for me.”
The three students and family members came by the Temecula campus to collect their well-deserved bounty. Those students were also surprised to receive some Christmas cash that averaged $150.
One of the recipient’s children had a special way of saying ‘thank you’. “Her son drew me a picture of Batman on one side and on the other a superhero with a police badge,” says Chivington. “He knew I was a police officer in the CJC department. That was most gratifying, personally for me, and I’m going to have that one framed and put in my office.”
It is difficult to imagine the difference this gesture of giving made in the holiday of so many lives. “(The young male student) said he was planning on eating crackers for dinner the night we delivered his presents,” says Chivington. “He told us that now, with the gift cards that were provided, he would eat a good meal.”
Mr. Chivington wants to thank all who participated in and contributed to this generous gift-giving. “These children will have a better Christmas because of your generosity. And I am grateful to be part of the (SJVC) Temecula family and humbled by the responses from everyone involved.”
He also sees this as an opportunity for his CJC students to embrace an important aspect of their future careers. “As future police officers and deputy sheriffs, you have to have compassion for people struggling, whether it’s their fault or not. We can’t judge them any differently. And I want our students to have that compassion for all mankind; be willing to help out whenever they can in their careers.”
Christmas is the perfect time for that spirit of compassion and generosity and is an example to stand front and center as inspiration to all.
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