By Robert Noles
Have you ever heard of a policeman stopping people to give them money? That’s not a trick question. That was the pleasant task given the Opelika Police Department by an anonymous donor two days before Christmas. The donor gave $2,000 to the OPD for them to give away to 20 unsuspecting but needy Opelika families.
Opelika Police Chief John McEachern, Assistant Chief Bob Holley, Lt. Bobby Kilgore and Sgt. Tony Amerson gathered in Kilgore’s office at the Opelika Police Department to decide how best to carry out this special assignment.
Amerson, a 20-year veteran of the police force, was given the assignment of choosing and presenting 20 lucky recipients with a crisp, new $100 bill each, while the others would observe in case they were needed.
Amerson circled through the parking lots of Walmart, Family Dollar, Fred’s and other local retail stores to locate prospective recipients. Of course, he missed some of his targets since people would either have gone into the store or out into the street, heavy and slow-moving parking lot traffic slowing him down. At one point Amerson said, “I never knew how hard it would be to give away $100.”
The OPD officers are here to serve and protect the public but seldom do they help them pay their Christmas bills. As the sergeant stopped people in the parking lot, he received different reactions. Some would ask, “Why did you stop me?” or “What’s going on?” Some just had looks on their faces of “Why me?”
Expressions like these are quite common as police approach citizens these days, but on that day the Opelika policeman was looking for someone to whom he could give a gift – not a ticket.
People’s demeanors quickly changed when they found out the officer with lights on was stopping them to give them $100 – no strings attached, just a gift to them. The officer did not ask the person’s name or ask them questions, just explained it was a gift and that the Opelika Police Department wanted them to have it.
Some were reluctant to take the money because they couldn’t believe it was a gift to them with no strings attached. One person hugged the officer after receiving the gift, and another cried tears of appreciation.
One lady said she really needed it since her mother was in the hospital. Later that lady was seen talking on the phone to someone, tears rolling down her cheeks. Another was so happy she got her grandson out from his rear carseat, and the little boy gave Amerson a kiss on his cheek.
As the sun went down and the donated money ran out, the officers returned to the Opelika Police Station on S. 10th St. All of them said they had the greatest feeling of fulfillment and joy – equally as much as those who had received the $100.
Editor’s note: To the anonymous donor: we hope you had a Merry Christmas. You helped give one to a lot of people, many more than the 20 who got the money. Thank you!