OAKHURST — When Anthony Gonzales’s truck was stolen from a local business on Halloween, he was forced to use his dirt bike for transportation, and it looked like Christmas might be tough this year.
But an encounter with a Madera County Sheriff’s deputy at the gas station yesterday brought some Christmas cheer, rather than the feared citation for an expired registration.
Back on Halloween night, Anthony had gone out to celebrate with friends at the Oak Room, and did the right thing by leaving his Chevy Tahoe at the bar and catching a ride home, knowing he’d celebrated a bit too much to be driving.
That decision was well-intentioned, but someone stole the Tahoe and totaled it in a rollover crash, leaving him without transportation other than his dirt bike.
He had just traded the bike for a 1988 GMC, and had begun the registration process but hadn’t yet paid the tags — thus the expired plates that caught the eye of Deputy Ian Roth as the truck was being fueled at the Oakhurst Valero.
Roth was one of the deputies who were lucky enough to be part of this year’s Operation Random Acts of Kindness, a project made possible for the second year by Agriland Farming Company Inc., who provided the Sheriff’s Office with forty $100 bills, along with the request that they seek out those who would most benefit from such a Christmas miracle. The company also played this Secret Santa role last year, but chose to remain anonymous.
So on Thursday, about a dozen deputies took on the enviable task of brightening 40 Christmases, many volunteering to come in on their days off to cruise through the area, looking for just the right recipients.
“This is an opportunity for the deputies and the community to build bridges,” said Commander Tyson Pogue, who headed up the project again this year. “There’s so much negative perception of law enforcement, and we often deal with people at their worst moments. This gives us the chance for positive interaction and benefits both the citizens and the deputies.”
So late in the afternoon, Deputy Roth pulled into the Oakhurst Valero and noted the expired tags on Anthony Gonzales’s truck. After turning on those blue and red lights that cause most people’s hearts to beat a little faster, Roth approached the driver and chatted a bit about the registration.
Anthony told the story of his stolen Tahoe, and said that he had just traded his dirt bike for the GMC and was in the process of getting everything transferred so he would finally have a vehicle in which to drive to work.
Instead of being handed a citation for expired tags, adding to the challenges of an already tight holiday budget, Anthony was presented with a Christmas greeting with a $100 bill attached. He looked around as though he was sure he was being punked.
Anthony is looking forward to a merrier Christmas for his 9-year-old daughter since he won’t have to spend all his holiday cash on DMV fees, and Deputy Roth is glad to have made a difference.
“We deal with people on a daily basis, and we understand that life’s circumstances can be difficult,” says Roth. “We’re human too, and experience a lot of the same difficulties. We understand and take into account what’s going on in people’s lives.”
Perhaps the best part of this day was getting hugs from those who were blessed by these random acts of kindness.
“We never get hugs,” said Roth with a smile. “So it’s nice to get them when we’re doing this job.”
Watch for two more heart-warming stories of Deputy Roth’s Random Acts of Kindness mission, coming tomorrow.
(We apologize for the lousy audio of this video, but it’s fun to see such a smile!)