Dowagiac police hand out $100 bills ahead of holiday

Published 4:20 pm Thursday, December 21, 2023

DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac Police and Fire Departments were able to spread holiday cheer this season.

Officers spent the past few weeks giving out $100 in cash to 35 lucky drivers who were pulled over for minor violations at the right time. The Dowagiac Fire Department also assisted with the giveaways.

“It’s something actually that I wanted to do for a while,” said Public Safety Director Steve Grinnewald. “I wanted to do something very similar for the last few years and I just decided I’m gonna quit thinking about it and do it.”

Instead of giving out tickets for violations, Grinnewald and his officers were able to show their holiday spirit by handing out the money. The Dowagiac Fire Department also assisted with the giveaways.

“It’s illegal for us to stop somebody unless we have a reason to,” he said. “We stopped them, talked to them a little bit and explained to them why they’re being stopped, why it’s important to get this stuff fixed or whatever it is they’re doing and then we try to spread a little Christmas cheer ourselves. Everybody needs a helping hand at this time.”

Grinnewald said the giveaway was made possible by fundraising projects the public safety departments have hosted throughout the year, including the police and firefighter “Dunk Tank at the Dowagiac Summer Festival where police officers and No-Shave November. He said the reactions ranged from Christmas cheers to tears of joy.

“Usually they asked the question ‘is this for real’ all the way up to people crying. I got a lot of hugs. We saw a little bit of everything, but everybody’s been very, very appreciative. I honestly feel that out of the 35 people that we’ve touched, I think we’ve touched them all.”

Grinnewald was inspired by seeing departments across the country doing similar giveaways. The Dowagiac Police and Fire Departments annually give back to Cass County youth and their families through projects like Shop With A Hero and Toys for Tots. The department is also conducting its own Secret Santa project by placing wrapped gifts near community landmarks for families. Grinnewald said the money giveaway was a way for the departments to reach more of the community.

“How do we get out and touch more of our, how do we get out and touch everybody instead of a small group,” he said. “I’ve seen it done in some other cities throughout the United States and I thought there’s no reason why we can’t do that here. I think it gives us a chance to touch more of our community instead of just a small segment.”

Following a positive community response, Grinnewald hopes the giveaway is something that the department can do every year.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “Usually people aren’t too glad to see us; they weren’t at first but it turned into making their day. I hope this is something we can turn into a tradition.”