Traffic stop in Malheur County ends with $50 holiday gift

Saradawn Curtis, top left, stands with wife Stephanie Curtis and their three children. (Submitted photo)

VALE – After a grueling eight-hour shift of cleaning houses to make some extra money for the holidays, the last thing Saradawn Curtis wanted to see were the lights of a sheriff’s cruiser signaling her to pull over. 

But to her surprise, Curtis walked away $50 richer thanks to an anonymous donor. 

“This is the kind of stuff you read about on Facebook,” said Curtis, who was stopped three days before Thanksgiving. “You don’t ever think it’s going to happen to you.”

The money came from a donation given to the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office.

“This was a local business person who brought some money in because they were concerned about folks not having enough for Thanksgiving,” said Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe.

The donor requested that deputies hand out $50 bills to people that seemed like they could use a little extra help for the holidays. 

Wolfe declined to comment on the sum, but he said the donation was a large amount that would “benefit several people and families.” 

For Curtis, it felt like a reward for her hard work. She said she cried the whole way home.


“I want whoever did this to know how much it means to people,” said Curtis. 

The money was a big help for holiday expenses. 

Wolfe said he’s been lucky enough to hand out some of the bills himself; he said it’s pretty fun to make someone’s day. He’s seen all sorts of reactions. Surprise, mostly. 

“It’s not something that law enforcement does very often – stops you and gives you money,” Wolfe said, adding that people “are very grateful, many are reduced to tears, others are overjoyed with excitement.”

Deputies are selective on who gets the cash, he added. When Curtis was stopped a few days before Thanksgiving it was for a broken tail light. So she was surprised when the deputy began to probe her with questions. 

He asked about her family – Curtis and her wife have three boys, 7-year-old twins and a 2-year-old. He asked about their plans for Thanksgiving – Curtis said her wife’s family is pretty big and they would be spending the holiday at home in Vale.

“It’s one of those feelings that restores your faith in the Christmas spirit,” Curtis said recalling that day.

Wolfe said the good deed is not connected to a similar “Secret Santa” effort the department has participated in for about five years. 

“It’s up to the donor whether we do it. It’s not a guarantee that it will happen this year,” Wolfe said of the Secret Santa gesture. 

“With the Secret Santa in years past there’s been several situations where folks have said it’s going to make a difference,” Wolfe said.  

Curtis said she walked away feeling like she wanted to do something to pay it forward. 

“I want to do something because I know how much it means to get help,” said Curtis. “Especially this time of year.”

Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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