By Rick Houghtelling
Four years ago, Judge Saragossa’s predecessor ask us if we knew anyone that could come up with a last-minute Christmas for a Veteran’s family with 7 children that was getting ready to graduate. After paying all the fines and fees and the costs of supporting a family of 9 there was nothing left for gifts. The Judge said the children had never really had a proper Christmas.
These are children that have had at least one parent in the Military, in the court system for a non-violent crime, Diagnosed with Mental illness, PTSD, Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, etc. The children have probably seen the worst, some have been homeless. All the Veterans are nearing or have completed an exhaustive treatment and rehabilitative program are current on all their fees and fines, have a job and are scheduled for graduation. The Judge Vets them and assigns us the names of the children and the families. None of our recipients have reoffended and the program overall has a less than 3% recidivism rate.
The Judge provides us the child’s Christmas Wish List from Santa and any other special needs for the family. We then purchase the gifts on the list and have the personalized gifts presented to the child by Santa at a Christmas party hosted by the Judge in the Courtroom. These are things the child may never have been able to receive otherwise. This also helps give the children a positive impression of the court they may have not had before.
We have now expanded our Courts to include not only Judge Melissa Saragossa’s Las Vegas Court but last year added Judge Mark Stevens Henderson Court.
Last year we provided for 21 families and 30 children. This year the need will be greater, and we expect more of the Veteran Treatment Courts will want to participate in the future.
THIS IS THE ONLY PROGRAM LIKE THIS IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.
We are asking for monetary donations and volunteers to help raising money, purchasing and wrapping the gifts and in the Christmas Parties themselves.
If you would like to help, please contact Rick Houghtelling at (702) 349-2574.