Santa Claus Commission Gifts Being Delivered by OJA Staff to Youth in Agency Custody

Beverly Cantrell - December 21, 2021 8:30 pm

OKLAHOMA CITYMore than 200 youth in the custody of the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) are being remembered by Santa Claus this year.

OJA staff members are working with the Santa Claus Commission to make sure the youth spending Christmas in the 11 group homes across the state that have contracts with OJA and the agency’s two secure-care treatment facilities are remembered during the holiday season. The gifts will be distributed to 133 youth in community-level placements and 69 in OJA’s secure-care treatment centers in Tecumseh and Manitou.

Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) Chief of Staff Constanzia Nizza, right, and OJA employees Vijayalakshmi Swamidurai, left, and Shelly Richardson help wrap gifts provided by the Santa Claus Commission for the more than 200 youth spending Christmas in the 11 group homes across the state that have contracts with OJA and the agency’s two secure-care treatment facilities.

OJA staff wrapped gifts for the youth, and are now delivering them. The gifts, some of which were suggested by OJA youth to the commission, were purchased with funds provided by the commission, which was formed in 1937. Each year, the Santa Claus Commission delivers gifts to youth in the care of OJA. The commission is managed by OJA and is responsible for the purchase and distribution of gifts as part of Title 10, Section 361 of the Oklahoma Statutes. Public funds are not used to purchase gifts. The commission currently operates from private donations and collects interest from the dollars currently available in the Santa Claus Commission Fund.

“Youth in OJA custody are completing treatment and rehabilitation away from their families and home,” said OJA Executive Director Rachel Holt. “During the holiday season it is important for us to remember that they are still children and let them feel loved and appreciated with a holiday gift.  I tell the youth that if they are successful in their program this can be the last holiday in their lifetime that they are away from home.  This is a powerful reminder of the work our OJA staff and contracted staff do every day to change the future for justice involved youth.” 

Each child received a duffle bag, coloring book, composition book, photobook, a candy bar, lip balm, a pair of socks and body wash. OJA youth in group homes each also received a pack of colored pencils and a $20 gift card, Oklahoma’s Credit Union donated the activation cost for all the cards. Secure-care youth received $20 applied to their canteen account, an individually directed fund that allows the youth to purchase facility-approved items such as candy, soft drinks and hygiene products. Instead of colored pencils, youth in secure care received additional snacks.

 Oklahoma’s Credit Union is waiving the usual processing fee for the gift cards.

“We understand the importance of supporting Oklahoma kids and applaud the Office of Juvenile Affairs for making this positive impact through the Santa Claus Commission,” said Oklahoma’s Credit Union Chief Experience Officer Jennifer Lown.

 

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