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Secret Santa spreading green cheer

SALEM — An anonymous Secret Santa has armed Salem police officers with cash, asking them to hand the money to random people to spread the joy this Christmas season.

Police Chief J.T. Panezott confirmed Thursday what he said has been popping up on social media, stories of people who had Salem officers walk up to them, hand them some cash and wish them a Merry Christmas.

He said an anonymous donor gave the department money to act as Secret Santas at their discretion.

He had no comment on the identity of the donor, or the amount of money the donor gave them to distribute. Their only instructions were to give the money to people who could use some Christmas cheer and use it to make for a better holiday. Since then, officers have been passing out money during their patrols, at local grocery stores, restaurants and throughout the community.

The same concept has happened in other areas of the country through generous donors and now it has come to Salem.

Panezott said the donor’s words were that “we have to give all the glory to God.”

He had copies of some of the responses of recipients who posted on social media, who were pleasantly surprised and thankful for the gifts. He personally handed out some of the cash and said one woman started crying, she was so happy and grateful.

“It’s one of the most significant acts of kindness that we’ve experienced as a department,” Panezott said, regarding the donation.

He added they’ve had a lot of great things happen over the years that they’re thankful for, that the community has done for the officers.

Now that the word is spreading about the Secret Santa cash, the giving is spreading throughout Salem.

“The happiest part of it for me is that it’s becoming contagious,” Panezott said.

Other people are giving in the spirit of the season and people are paying forward the good that they’ve experienced.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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