How Police In Harrisonburg, Va., Spread A Little Christmas Cheer In Their Community
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
To Virginia now, where one small city has a little extra reason to be celebrating the season. Christopher Clymer Kurtz of member station WMRA in Harrisonburg tells us about an unusual encounter that dozens of residents had last week with local police.
CHRISTOPHER CLYMER KURTZ, BYLINE: Harrisonburg, Va., with about 52,000 residents, is nestled in the Shenandoah Valley. Three years ago, a private donor came to the police department here with money and an idea - building a better relationship between police and the community one $100 bill at a time. Again this year, it was Sergeant Ron Howard's job to give away five of those bills. The former marine has been with the police force 17 years.
RON HOWARD: Now, I got a soft heart. I may come across gruffy (ph), you know, normal-day-to-day business, but I'm telling you, the very first one I hit, I mean, dude, I'm telling you, it took all I had to get out of there without shedding a tear.
KURTZ: Howard and his fellow officers distributed $8,000 through this unusual street initiative. In doing so, Howard looked for moms like Mandy Mccarthy. He found her on a curb taking a short break from her lawn care job.
HOWARD: Hi there. Do you need any help?
MANDY MCCARTHY: Oh, no. I was just taking a break. I'm doing the leaves.
HOWARD: OK. You got any kids?
MCCARTHY: Yeah, one.
HOWARD: You got a few minutes? I might come around and talk to you for just a second.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR DOOR CLOSING)
HOWARD: And how old's your son, daughter?
MCCARTHY: He's 5.
HOWARD: Five. OK. Well, what if I told you today might be your lucky day that if we were just stopping by, visiting folks?
MCCARTHY: It could not - OK.
HOWARD: Well, what if I told you that we were out here spreading some good cheer for the early holiday season and we were giving away a hundred dollars? Do you think you could use a hundred dollars?
MCCARTHY: Yeah. I prayed for God to give me some money this morning.
HOWARD: You did?
HOWARD: Well, it's just your lucky day. I'm going to give you a hundred dollars here, OK.
MCCARTHY: I guess you got to understand it all like 'cause I didn't know how I was going to pay my car insurance. And I've only been able to get my son like two presents. Thank you very much.
HOWARD: Not a problem. Merry Christmas. Behave yourself and don't work too hard, OK?
MCCARTHY: Yes. Thank you.
HOWARD: Of course, $100 won't remedy financial hardship, but for the Secret Santa recipients like McCarthy, it's certainly brightened their Christmas this year.
MCCARTHY: Thank you so much.
HOWARD: Yes, ma'am. Have a good holiday.
MCCARTHY: You, too.
KURTZ: For NPR News, I'm Christopher Clymer Kurtz.
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