At a time when relations between police and the public are nothing short of tense, a viral Secret Santa movement is helping local law enforcement agencies across the country spread holiday cheer.
The West Virginia State Police Princeton Detachment received a visit Monday from a man bearing $1,000. The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said he’d heard about a police Secret Santa project, in which law enforcement officers were handing out money instead of tickets at traffic stops.
“He said he wasn’t rich, but he did have a little bit of money that he would like to give back into the community,” 1st Sgt. M.R. Crowder told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph of the anonymous donor.
The money was divided among a few state troopers who went out and pulled over drivers, only to surprise them with a $100 bill instead of a ticket. Two Daily Telegraph staffers rode along with one of the troopers to witness the excitement.
“I thought, ‘What did I do wrong? Where is my paperwork?’” said Marie Davis, one of the people who got pulled over. “He came up and asked if I felt lucky today. And I said, ‘No, not really.’ And he gave me a $100 bill and a candy cane.”
Davis told the paper she’d been concerned that she wouldn’t have enough money for Christmas dinner after buying presents for her daughter. “This will really help,” she said.
Davis is just one of several lucky people around the country to be on the receiving end of the Secret Santa giveaway. Over the past week, the project has spread from Louisiana to Iowa to West Virginia, with the stories of generous benefactors inspiring others to pay it forward.
The movement could be traced back to Kansas City, Mo., where, CBS News reported last week, a wealthy businessman hands out $100 bills to strangers (about $100,000 worth) every year. This year the man, known only as “Secret Santa,” decided to give his loot to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and have its deputies distribute it. CBS News noticed that within a few hours after it posted its report on the Kansas City Secret Santa, the story had already received 40 million views.
“It’s actually a privilege today to give out $100 bills because when people deal with law enforcement, it’s not always happy smiles, it’s usually in a negative way,” West Virginia State Trooper D.C. Graham told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “So it’s good to be able to provide some joy instead of negativity to these people.”