12/22/2006

A $400 dose of holiday spirit; Constables donate cash left on squads

Lindsay Wise, Staff
The Houston Chronicle

Harris County constables got a surprise Christmas bonus Tuesday afternoon when they found $100 bills tucked underneath the windshield wipers of four patrol cars.

"We don't know why they were there - whether it was a good Samaritan or just someone with Christmas spirit," said Jim Sumner, chief deputy with Harris County Precinct 4 constables in Spring. "I've been here 26 years, and I've never seen anybody put $100 bills on patrol cars before."

Constables were celebrating the holidays with a Christmas lunch Tuesday afternoon when a detective came into the office at 6831 Cypresswood carrying a $100 bill he found on his windshield, Sumner said.

"That raised suspicions," he said with a chuckle.

A subsequent search of the parking lot turned up three more bills - two were placed on marked patrol cars and two on unmarked cars parked in marked spots, including his own vehicle, Sumner said.

The constables were stumped. "We thought it was real cute and funny," Sumner said.

So far, the constables have no witnesses or suspects in what appears to be a random act of holiday kindness.

"It's a mystery," he said. "Maybe it's somebody we helped or just a person who, in the generosity of their heart, wanted to recognize our work in the community."

According to law, however, the constables cannot keep the money, so they decided to donate it to FamilyTime, a Humble-area counseling center and shelter for battered women and children.

"We figured somebody else might be able to use this more than we can," Sumner said.

The money will help the center provide its regular services as well as gifts, Christmas dinner and other holiday activities such as pizza parties and movie outings for abused women and their families, said Pam Dickson, FamilyTime's community development director.

"You can imagine - or maybe you can't - what it's like for a woman and her children to spend the holidays in a shelter," she said. "We really, really appreciate the gesture of this anonymous angel. And the fact that the constables thought of FamilyTime is wonderful. It was just like a Christmas miracle."

Meanwhile, Precinct 4 constables, who have worked with the center before, are left to wonder about their secret Santa.

"His or her generosity is not going to be forgotten," Sumner said. "It really makes you feel the meaning of Christmas."

Copyright 2006 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company
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