MADERA COUNTY — If you got pulled over by a Sheriff’s deputy today, you may have gotten a boost of Christmas cheer, rather than a citation.
That’s what happened to Melinda Kerby of North Fork, who was on her way to bible study, when she was stopped for a burned out license plate light. Instead of a ticket, she was handed a crisp new $100 bill, and wished a Merry Christmas.
Deputies who volunteered their time, both in the valley and the mountain area, were assigned the enviable task of distributing holiday cash to lucky recipients in Madera County.
A large agriculture company, that wishes to remain anonymous, donated $5,000 to the Sheriff’s Office, requesting that it be given away in “Secret Santa” fashion.
Lt. Tyson Pogue was in charge of “Operation Random Kindness,” and he and four deputies set out to spread some Christmas cheer in the mountains this evening. Sgt. Jacob Tallmon, Deputies Darrel Swengel and Miguel Hernandez, and Reserve Deputy, recently retired, Roy Broomfield were assigned to the detail.
“We were happy to give a little extra in the way of Christmas blessings,” said Pogue, who spearheaded the project and put it in motion in under 24 hours.
I was invited to ride along with Sgt. Tallmon, an officer well known in the mountain area, who has spent many years on patrol, getting to know the residents he serves. This was one assignment he absolutely did not want to miss out on.
“Building relationships with the community is the only thing that makes cop work happen,” said Tallmon, who was stopped repeatedly on his rounds through North Fork by folks just wanting to say hello.
One lady flagged him down to show photos of her beautiful dogs and chat about the disappointing season the 49ers are having. Another resident stopped the cruiser in the post office parking lot, just to say Merry Christmas and offer a prayer for the sergeant’s safety as he continued on the evening’s patrol.
Brooke and Russell Coleman were all smiles as Sgt. Tallmon delivered his Secret Santa gift to the surprised and grateful family. He also brightened the holidays for a woman who has to walk to work because her car needs repair, while she chooses to spend what cash she does have feeding local kids in need.
All the deputies who participated in today’s event not only gave the gift of Christmas cash, but also the gift of their time. They all volunteered, and Sgt. Tallmon says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I absolutely wanted to do this,” he said. “It’s a blessing for us too, and it’s just the right thing to do for people who need a little help.” He was delighted to be able to deliver “a good surprise rather than a bad one” to those with whom he interacted this evening.
As for Melinda Kerby, she did promise to fix her license plate light, and to drive slowly the rest of her way to bible study. (click here to see the video)
“I can’t believe this happens in the mountains,” said a visibly emotional Kerby to Sgt. Tallmon. “Thank you, every day for all you do. And not just because of this. God bless each and every one of you.”
Sheriff Jay Varney says the department plans to continue this type of outreach in the years to come.
“We felt this was a great opportunity to help the community we serve while building better relationships between law enforcement and the community,” said Sheriff Jay Varney.