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Photo by Diane Cox
Koesha DeBruce of Alton and her children Alexis, 10, Simone, 8, and Kaiden, 2, stand with Alton police officer Andrew Pierson. Pierson presented DeBruce with a $50 Shop ’n Save gift card in the place of a ticket on Dec. 14. Receiving gift cards in place of tickets has given area motorists a reason to smile when getting pulled over.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Alton resident Selena Ferguson smiles with relief after Alton police officer Andrew Pierson gives her a gift card instead of a ticket for a broken taillight. The Alton police officers donated more than $1,000 for No-Shave November to purchase gift cards to surprise residents.
ALTON — When Koesha DeBruce of Alton saw police lights in her rearview mirror, she had a flashback from an uneasy past.
In place of what she feared to be an uncomfortable confrontation, a Christmas blessing came at the best possible time and from the most unexpected source, the Alton Police Department.
“I’ve been through so much and I had my child in the car,” DeBruce said. “In 2008, a police officer tasered her father. I have always been scared of police officers. I admit; getting pulled over made me feel terrified.”
The Alton Police Department had an opportunity to show the young mother that not every experience with a police officer has to be a negative one. DeBruce was one of the lucky local residents who received a $50 gift card to Shop ’n Save from Officer Andrew Pierson on Dec. 14 in place of a citation.
“I saw his lights come on and I was thinking, no, my gosh,” DeBruce said. “You know, I am so blessed. It does feel so good to know there are good police officers out there. This showed me they are not here to hurt me; some do really care. My goodness, I needed this.”
The Alton Police Department used No-Shave November as an annual fundraiser for charitable organizations. The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness of what cancer patients undergo during treatments. The initiative is to donate money typically spent on shaving and grooming to educate about cancer prevention, save lives, help others and honor those who continue to fight the battle.
“We have a policy at the department that doesn’t allow facial hair beyond a mustache,” Pierson said. “We all had to pay a cost to grow facial hair through the month of November and some paid extra for a two-week extension into December. We usually donate the money to a local charity. This year we thought we’d try handing out gift cards for minor offenses in the place of a ticket to show random acts of kindness in our neighborhood. It’s been a good experience.”
Alton resident Selena Ferguson was on her way to the dentist with two of her children when officer Pierson found her with a broken taillight. A $50 Target gift card at Christmas can come in handy in the Ferguson home.
“I saw him turn around behind me and I hoped he wasn’t coming after me for something,” Ferguson said. “This is my husband’s car and the kids were asking, ‘Mom, what did you do?’ They’re young and little bit of tattletales; I knew they’d tell my husband about me getting pulled over. I was so shocked when he gave me the gift card. I saw on the news they were giving some away; I didn’t think I was going to be that fortunate today.”
Ferguson says the program is a great way for police to reach out to the public and give them a chance to see a different side of men and women in uniform.
“I think it’s fantastic and it couldn’t be at a better time for people in the community,” Ferguson said. “I cannot thank him and the Alton Police Department enough. With six children at home from ages 1 to 11, it’ll really help us out.”
The police department, through the generosity of 35 officers, clerks and dispatchers, donated roughly $1,100 from the No-Shave November fundraiser. Along with the $50 gift cards presented to motorists over the last week, $200 was donated to children’s programs at the Alton Salvation Army.