ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. – The two Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies approached the man in a truck full of recyclables. Initially confused, and perhaps worried, by the approaching deputies, the man’s reaction quickly morphed into elation when the deputies explained what they were doing:

Handing out cash, reported Behind the Badge OC.

As the man accepted the money, the tears started flowing. Then came the prayers.

That scene was replayed time and again over ten days in Orange County, California leading up to Christmas. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) partnered with Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) to distribute $17,000 donated by an anonymous source in Operation Secret Santa.

TIP is a non-profit whose 90 trained volunteers work with emergency service providers to offer emotional and practical support following tragedy.

OCSD employees identified deserving children and families, and then TIP volunteers met deputies and coroner investigators at 15 schools and residences to deliver the donations. It created surprise and delight everywhere they went.

“Our police and deputies are amazing partners and great humans,” said Kristi Batiste, crisis team manager for TIP Orange County, who rode around with deputies to hand out money to people they encountered.

“We at TIP get to see that every single day,” Batiste said. “It was an honor to be with them and a pleasure to see the community experience this side of the men and women who serve Orange County.”

People typically received a minimum of $100 in crisp new bills, and some families were given $1,000.

“We don’t know the depth of the need of any of the people we contacted,” Batiste said of her ride-along. “But we know that we not only gave a monetary gift but we gave a little bit of hope, some caring and concern.

“The deputies got to give freely to a community they serve in — no strings attached. Those who received the gifts were deeply touched, and hopefully will share a little of the hope and spirit with others.”

In the feature picture is Cameron Outland, a 6th grader at San Joaquin Elementary, with his family, Principal Karen Schibler, left, OCSD Dep. Anthony Sambrano and TIP volunteer Karolina Lorry, right. The Outland family received $500 from TIP. Cameron and his siblings attend San Joaquin.  According to school officers, each of the Outland siblings follow the lead of their mother by being respectful, polite and hardworking. Cameron’s mother is working hard with limited resources, and the family was homeless before recently securing a place to live.

Thank you TIP and OCSD for delivering gifts this Christmas season. Perhaps more than cash was a ray of hope that was delivered during the operation.

(Photo courtesy Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC)