- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

COVINGTON, La. (AP) - What at first seemed like bad luck for Covington resident Annie Williams turned out to be a “blessing.”

She had just turned on to her street in The Groves subdivision Tuesday when Sgt. Russell Spinks pulled her over for failing to use her turn signal. After Spinks checked her license and registration he let her off with a warning - and then he handed her a $100 bill, telling her “Merry Christmas” and that the gift was from the department and an anonymous Secret Santa.

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1A1rRm5 ) Spinks was one of eight officers participating in the event that’s fueled by a donor who gave the department several thousand dollars.

Williams’ jaw dropped when Spinks gave her the money.

“I am very grateful,” she said. “Shocked.”

Williams said she’d spend the $100 on Christmas presents for her six grandchildren. The money was a blessing, she said.

When Spinks stopped Roy McCann of Madisonville for failing to use his turn signal, McCann initially said he was confused. As Spinks explained he actually was just trying to make his Christmas brighter, McCann said, “This is the best blessing. Thank you, officer.”

Chief Tim Lentz said the Secret Santa event was a “big step” in helping the police department forge a better relationship with the community.

“To me, this is so important to us in our mission, because every day when we go to work we build what I call ‘social capital,’” he said. “We build our relationships with our community, so God forbid should something like Ferguson happen here in Covington, our citizens hopefully will give us the benefit of the doubt because we spend all year long building our relationships.”

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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