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Spreading holiday cheer: WPD helps randomly distribute $1,200 to community members

Worthington Sgt. Josh McCuen surprises Camila Wede and boyfriend Derrick Jansen Wednesday afternoon with $100 cash as part of the department's Secret Santa program. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)1 / 2
Evan Cummings (left), automechanic at Anderson Alignment, gifted $100 he randomly received Wednesday afternoon as part of the Worthington Police Department's Secret Santa program to Josiah Morales, who had dropped off his vehicle earlier that morning. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Evan Cummings wondered what traffic violation he’d committed Wednesday afternoon when he looked in the rear view mirror and saw blue and red flashing lights.

Despite how it appeared, Cummings turned out to be one of 12 lucky individuals in the Worthington community. In its second year, two Worthington police officers evenly distributed $1,200 to 12 individuals in the span of no more than two hours as part of its Secret Santa program, which was made possible this year thanks to two anonymous donors.

“That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard of,” Cummings said about the program.

Cummings wasn’t quick to pocket the crisp $100. He had another plan for it.  

Josiah Morales had dropped off his vehicle and handed over his keys earlier that morning Anderson Alignment Service, where Cummings works as a mechanic. Cummings was test-driving Morales’ vehicle later that afternoon when he was stopped by WPD Sgt. Brett Wiltrout.

Inspired by the act of generosity, Cummings gifted it forward to Morales later that afternoon.

“I figured it was his car, and he was probably about 10 minutes from getting pulled over himself,” Cummings said. Anderson Alignment also donated the labor to fix Morales’ brakes and alignment service.

Morales was appreciative, especially with a 1-year-old daughter who’s going to get to have a very merry Christmas.

The unexpected $100 meant something different for each person that day.

Whether it was a young college student waitressing full-time and living paycheck to paycheck, someone recovering from surgery and unable to work, a young mother, someone supporting a family member with a drug addiction or someone excited to be able to make oyster stew and fill her grandchildren’s Christmas cards with a little cash, each recipient was appreciative for the extra support this Christmas season.  

One recipient was even quick to show appreciation to the police force before she had realized the extent of the gift she’d just been given.

“She was very appreciative,” said Sgt. Josh McCuen. “She said she prays for us every day.”

McCuen said the afternoon of handing out cash was a nice change from regular duties, and he was grateful for the anonymous donors that made it possible.

“We appreciate them allowing (the department) to be a part of the donation,” he said.

For Wiltrout, getting to experience people’s reactions and hear their stories is what makes the program so rewarding.

“I like to see smiles on their faces,” he said.

The department plans to continue the annual program so long as donations keep making it possible.