Agriland employees help Sheriff’s Department spread holiday cheer


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

After being pulled over by Madera County Sheriff Deputy Matt Autry, Michelle Belion received a pleasent surprise with a Random Act of Kindness, a card and a $100 bill donated by the employees of Agriland.

The employees of Agriland teamed with the Madera County Sheriff’s Department to spread Random Acts of Kindness throughout the county this week.


The deputies handed out 50 envelopes of $100 to unsuspecting members of the community on Wednesday.


“We’ve been really lucky with the partnership of the employees of Agriland that they want to keep doing it,” said Tyson Pogue, Madera County Sheriff. “Today, we did 50 contacts. They are not always traffic stops. In year’s past, I saw someone on the roadway or saw someone in the parking lot.”


Agriland CEO Jim Maxwell started the partnership with the Sheriff’s office about five years ago to help them get viewed in a positive manner.


“I started it with Jay Varney some years ago in a year when we had that issue in Ferguson where law enforcement was under a great deal of scrutiny, pressure and bad public relations,” Maxwell said. “I felt like we, as a community, had to acknowledge the good in law enforcement and to give them an opportunity that blesses the community rather than the role they sometimes find themselves in. You see people who are down on their luck or underserved. They find themselves up against it. Instead of getting a ticket that is going to cost them money, they get $100 and they break down and sob. It’s such an emotional relief for them. We’ve gotten cards and letters from some of the recipients over the years that tell us it renews their faith in humanity.”


Pogue said the Sheriff’s office appreciates the partnership with the employees of Agriland and the Random Acts of Kindness helps the community see the deputies in a positive light.


“Typically, the law enforcement deals with people on the worst day of their lives,” he said. “They don’t call us to ask us how we’re doing. They call us when their world is falling apart. It’s a situation where every time you see a cop, it’s a negative situation. They wanted to afford us the opportunity to have positive interaction.


“We’ve done this for six years. We go out there and look for persons in need of holiday cheer. Sometimes, we’ve been most successful in looking for minor traffic violations or minor issues on cars. Today, we stopped a couple of cars for brake lights being out. We talked to them about why we pulled them over. Then, we make a decision if they get a ticket, warning or holiday cheer.”


However, Pogue also said that not everybody who got pulled over got holiday cheer.


“We were pretty successful in people who are down on their luck,” he said. “It’s very rewarding for the deputies. They really love it. It’s great for the community members. Some of the people and deputies tear up when they get the reward. It’s really rewarding.”


Pogue has been a part of the Random Acts of Kindness since it began and also went on patrol this week to hand out some envelopes.


“I went out and participated. I made a few car stops and spread some holiday cheer and some warnings, as well,” he said.

For Maxwell, he sees how much just this little act means to the people that receive it.


“We want to find people at the point of their life that need some help,” he said. “If we are privileged enough to step in and provide a little piece of the help they need, that’s what makes the world go around.”


In addition, Maxwell and the employees of Agriland are giving away more than 480 turkey dinners in partnership with Madera Unified School District.


“We’re giving away turkeys in the 12-16 pound range, a bag of citrus and all the trimmings,” he said. “We do that in partnership with Madera Unified. Over the years, we’ve given away over 10,000 turkey dinners. In the early years, we weren’t very good and didn’t know what we were doing. We weren’t able to get the food where it was most needed.”


With the days of the pandemic and many children schooling from home, Maxwell wanted to make sure the turkey dinners were on schedule to be given away.


“It was very important and didn’t think we were able to do the meals,” he said. “We made modifications on how we packed the dinners. We dramatically limited the number of people assembling the meals and picking up the groceries. The schools weren’t sure about the meals, either. They finally concluded it was something that needed to be done.


“We distribute through different channels. We gave out 484 meals, but not all of it went to Madera Unified. We go through the elementary schools because the teachers and admin know what families need the help the most. That’s our target. We did 11 elementary schools. We delivered 22 meals to the administration building and they take those out to the homeless families. They might take it to the motels or some of the encampments.”


Maxwell points out to the community service committee at Agriland for keeping the company entrenched in the community.


“I was very satisfied to get this done,” he said. “We look for employees who have big hearts to serve on that committee. It’s up to them to keep us actively involved in improving our community and looking for those who need our help. This program one of the things we do during the year. We’ve done it for 12 or 14 years.”


Pogue also sees the generosity of the employees of Agriland and thinks his deputies get more out of it than the people they reward.


“Sometimes, I wonder if the deputies don’t get more out of it than the community members they surprise,” he said. “From personal experience, there’s a reason why I want to keep coming out to do it. It’s a great feeling. The deputies come out and volunteer for this operation. We’re very fortunate for this partnership. In year’s past, we have other organizations to donate, as well. Every year, Agriland employees have donated to this cause. We’re extremely grateful for the partnership. It gives us an opportunity we would have never been able to do.”


In the end, it’s about spreading holiday cheer and helping spread positive vibes throughout the community.


“There’s nothing better than seeing a person overwhelmed with joy at a seemingly simple act,” Pogue said. “It’s the luck of a draw to find a car with someone down on their luck who is in need of that random kindness.”

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