Police officers across the First Coast were out in full force Wednesday with a mission not to hand out tickets, but rather, to spread holiday cheer.
Annie Henry and her sister, Gertrude, had no idea that two JSO officers, Assistant Chief Greg Burton and Officer Fred Caldwell, were riding the bus meeting residents as part of #904SecretSanta. Then, they broke out in song and surprised the sisters with a $100 gift card.
“We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!" they sang.
Santa's helpers from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Clay County Sheriff's and St. Johns County Sheriff's Office spent the day on a mission to give away $50,000 dollars in gift cards to anyone they came across in need of some Christmas Cheer.
The mission was designed to help build good will between the officers and the community they serve.
“Just to see their reactions to it, just to feel the heartfelt thank you from them, it just really means a lot,” Burton explained.
Betty McCloud was on her way into Brook Rehab on the Northside when she was serenaded.
“Oh my goodness... Thank you!” McCloud said.
All across the First Coast, officers and deputies spent the day surprising unsuspecting people.
Lisa Oakman was driving down Blanding Boulevard when she saw the blue lights come on behind her.
“I was like why is he pulling me over?," she said. "So I pulled over, and then I see Santa coming up."
“I'm Deputy Santa with the Clay County Sheriff's Office,” he told Oakman. “This morning, we are giving out holiday cheer and we selected you. Instead of being pulled over for bad behavior, we pulled you over for good behavior, good driving habits. From Secret Santa and the Clay County Sheriff's Office, here's a $100 gift card.”
The money couldn't have come at a better time for Richmond William.
“I ain't got no food in my house for my kids or nothing for Christmas,” William said. He was taking his dogs for a walk when Deputy Santa and Deputy Policastro walked up.
“This morning we are out giving our holiday cheer and we choose you,” they told him. He explained his wallet had just been stolen the day before.
“All the money I had for my grandkids they got, and they ain't going to have anything for Christmas so you all are just a blessing!” Williams said.
500 people were blessed with money they didn't expect to receive, and like the Henry sisters, they walked away full of hope and joy.
“The spirit of Christmas still exists," Henry said. "This is what Christ's birth means to us. Spread that joy and that love and you never know where that blessing with come from. Good morning, happy holidays, Merry Christmas goes a long way. You never know what gifts you will get. Thank you. Thank you! Thank you!”
Over the past three years, two anonymous donors have donated a total of $150,000 to spread joy, hope and good will across the three counties during the holidays for the #904SecretSanta mission.