FORSYTH -- James King didn't know why a Monroe County sheriff's deputy was on his tail Thursday morning as he was headed to physical therapy.
"A little nervous when they pulled behind me," said King, who is recovering from a back injury from an October traffic accident.
The Forsyth man drove his white GMC Jimmy into a gun store parking lot in Bolingbroke as Deputy Timothy Campfield hit the blue lights on his patrol car.
Campfield told King his license plate light was out, a violation that usually means a citation.
King pulled his hoodie over his head as he got out in the rain to talk to the deputy.
"Today, we'd like to spread a little joy in the community, so we'd like to give you this," Campfield said, handing King a crisply folded $100 bill.
King's eyes widened, and the worried look on his face softened into a smile.
"Oh, thank you. Thank you so much," said King, shaking Campfield's hand.
"I hope that money finds a good place for the holiday," the deputy told him.
King was already coming up with gift ideas for his little girl.
"I feel good. It's good for the sheriff's department," King said. "I feel relief that I'm not in no trouble, but I feel good."
Through a donation from an anonymous benefactor, Monroe County Sheriff John Cary Bittick gave officers 54 $100 bills to hand out randomly over three days this week.
"He had seen this program someplace else, and he thought in light of some of the tension nationally between law enforcement and local communities that this would be a great thing to do," Bittick said. "It's a great way for us to say 'thank you' to the entire Middle Georgia community for the way they supported us last year after Michael Norris got killed."
Some of the recipients were so moved they broke into tears.
Not all of those stopped were polite.
At least one driver's attitude got in the way of the good cheer.
"I had one cuss me out," Deputy John Thompson said. "I didn't give her any money, but I had three cry."
In the light rain Thursday morning, Joshua Daniel was headed down Ga. 87.
The tag light was out on his Nissan Maxima, and he pulled over as soon as he saw the blue lights.
He silently listened to Campfield explain the violation and chat with him about the holidays.
"How's your Christmas going this year?" the deputy asked.
"OK," Daniel replied softly.
"On behalf of myself and the sheriff's office of Monroe County, we were able to have the opportunity to give out some joy," Campfield said as he handed over the cash with Daniel's license and registration.
"That's a blessing," Daniel said. "Thank you, sir."
Right away, he said he would probably give it to his mother.
"She's a simple woman. She's a good woman. I'm sure she'll pay bills or whatever with it," said Daniel.
Rocio Duarte did not fully stop near the railroad tracks in downtown Forsyth, so Campfield pulled her over.
"We're tight on money," Duarte told him when he asked if she had bought all her Christmas presents.
She had gotten laid off, she said, before cautiously getting out of her Chevrolet Suburban.
Rubbing her eye, almost in disbelief, Duarte took the Benjamin from the deputy.
"Really happy," she said. "Thank you so much guys. You made my day better. I thought it was going to be really bad, but thank you."
Campfield said the surprise Santa stops also were a blessing to him.
"They don't always have the opportunity to see us doing good, helping people that need help," he said. "It makes me feel good that I have the opportunity to see them smile and know that I possibly helped that family through an anonymous donor."
The sheriff said it's a great way to spread the holiday spirit.
"This also is a good way for us at the sheriff's office to tell the entire Middle Georgia community, 'Merry Christmas.'''
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 and follow her on Twitter@liz_lines.