PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Getting pulled over by a police officer can cause anxious moments for just about anyone. But Saturday in Pascagoula, things were a bit different.
"Instead of giving out tickets today, we're giving out Walmart gift cards," said David Pettys, vice commander of VFW Post 3373.
Ana Martin was relieved.
"Thank you! I was so scared! This is so sweet and nice," Martin said. "I didn't expect this. I thought I was going to get a ticket."
VFW Post 3373 in Pascagoula teamed up with the Pascagoula Police Department to stop random drivers and give away $1,575 in gift cards. Police pulled over non-offenders, stopping motorists at safety checkpoints, or made personal deliveries to appreciative families.
"We need to make sure we partner with our local law enforcement to help the community realize that law enforcement is not there just to take them to jail," Pettys said.
Lt. Bob Cochran, with the Pascagoula Police Department Reserves, agreed.
"It's good outreach, it's good publicity. And, again, with some of the negativity shown this past year, it gives a different light upon the thin blue line," Cochran said.
And it's making Christmas brighter for a lot of people, one stop at a time.
"The officer said, 'Can we ask you a question today? Are you having a good Christmas? Are you having a happy Christmas?' It's much happier. It's a blessing."
It was a blessing for David Jones, as well.
"Y'all just don't know how much this is a blessing to me," Jones said. "It's going to go a long way, and I really appreciate it."
The gift card will help make Christmas better for Billy Wilkins' son.
"It's been kind of a hard year, you know, employment and all that the way it is. It's really cool," he said. "We have a nice little Christmas for them, but this will brighten up his day."
This is the second year for the VFW program.