Children receive gifts while visiting Fishkill during holiday season18 December 2020
Thanks to generous donations from Osborne supporters, our staff brought holiday cheer to children visiting their parents at Fishkill Correctional Facility. Malcolm Davis, program manager of Osborne's Wellness and Prevention, distributed gifts to visiting children over the weekend. Special thanks to the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region for their financial support of our toy drive.
You can read the original story on The Poughkeepsie Journal's site.
The 4-year-old laughed as he ran toward the table set up outside Fishkill Correctional Facility. His brother was not far behind.
On the table was a bounty of holiday treasures for all ages — stuffed toys, games, puzzles, headphones and other items — all covered in plastic.
Jacob Agueda and his 3-year-old brother, Edward, had just visited their father inside the Beacon facility. But weeks earlier, their father had signed them up to take part in an annual gift program. So, before they went home, they received stuffed dinosaurs, a blanket and other goodies.
"It means a lot," the boys' mother, Judy Aqueda, said. "It makes the kids feel loved and appreciated. Every child should feel that way, especially during the holidays."
Seeing looks on the boys' faces, "is everything," said Malcolm Davis, program manager for the Osborne Association who, for the last 15 years, has organized the gift program. "To see the smile on those kids' faces after they walked away, that's all I need."
The program was offered this year to parents incarcerated at Fishkill and Downstate correctional facilities. On Saturday morning Davis and his son, Jaden, stood in the cold and rain for hours waiting to greet families after they finished visiting with family. Davis planned to do the same Sunday and next weekend.
On their list this year is 33 families, and each child on the list has pre-selected gifts. But, Davis also brought extra toys in his car for families who didn't sign up in advance. On Saturday, Tarshina Boney of Brooklyn discovered the table and left with toys for her grandchildren.
The program was funded this year, in part, with a $500 contribution from Holiday Helping Hand.
Now in its 38th year, the collaboration between the Poughkeepsie Journal and the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region is a fundraiser for various community organizations that in turn host holiday events, such as gift card giveaways, breakfasts with Santa and holiday dinners. As of Saturday, 165 donations had been made to the 2020-21 Holiday Helping Hand campaign, totaling more than $27,800, which will go for next year's programs.
"When (I was informed) about Holiday Helping Hand, I looked at that as an opportunity to show the men an extended level of appreciation and support for their families, especially their children," Davis said. "We used these funds and ensured that every child receives a gift."
In addition to its gift giveaway, the Osborne Association conducts educational courses for inmates.
In past years, Davis would bring the toys to the facility during visiting hours, or in some special cases to the children’s home. This year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and safety measures are necessary, Davis had to change his plans. He placed the gifts on a table in the guest parking lot outside the facility without wrapping paper, and gifts were to be sealed in plastic bags.
While this year's event lacked the typical holiday pomp and circumstance, Davis said he was just happy to be there for the families.
"I thought this would be a wonderful year to do this, especially during COVID," Davis said. "We can't put into words the expression on these kids’ faces, for some it may be the only gift they receive for Christmas."
Tiffany Irizarry, supervisor of correctional volunteer services at Fishkill and Downstate correctional facilities, said the toy drive almost didn't happen this year due to a lack of fundraising during the pandemic. She said she is grateful to Malcolm for making it happen regardless of the circumstances.
"Malcolm is actually our Santa Claus… (this) is something the kids really look forward to, especially because a lot of the kids are coming from low-income families and they are not able to really get gifts like a Bluetooth speaker or some of these nicer gifts," Irizarry said. "It's really great, its hugely appreciated, and it means so much to the men on the inside."