The Malheur County Sheriff's Office secret Santa program handed out $50 in cash to area residents over the holidays. (The Enterprise/FILE)

VALE – A woman was recently stopped for speeding by a Malheur County sheriff’s deputy.

A brake light was also out on her vehicle and her vehicle registration wasn’t up to date.

The woman explained to the deputy she held off on changing the registration because she wanted enough money to buy Christmas presents.

She expected a ticket.

Instead she received $50 in cash from the deputy.

She was one of a dozen or more area motorists who prospered over the holidays from the secret Santa program of the sheriff’s office.

The program – made possible by a donation to the sheriff’s office – is all about educating motorists on traffic safety and lending a helping hand.

The effort is a good way to build camaraderie with the community, said Sheriff Brian Wolfe.

“It’s been really good for us over the years,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe said the program began about 10 years ago. This year an anonymous donor provided $1,000 for the effort.

“It helps us on our end because, you know, a lot of times people think law enforcement, all we care about is writing a ticket and that is not the case. We are looking for compliance for the betterment of the community,” said Wolfe.

While every case is different in terms of people, the reaction from motorists is usually one of shock, said Wolfe.

One man was stopped in Vale for no license plate and an improper child safety seat for one of his children. The deputy briefed the parents about a proper safety seat and gave them a warning. Then the deputy handed them a $50 bill.

According to Wolfe, another driver was stopped for speeding. The driver told the deputy had had driven all day and was due to start a 12-hour shift drilling for natural gas in Payette. The driver “was stunned” when he received a $50 bill.

“It is a kind of win-win for us and those who receive the donation as well,” said Wolfe.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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