Adam VanZant, a senior at Yosemite High School, was told Thursday that a Madera County Sheriff’s Deputy, Jack Williamson, was on his way to his house and wanted to talk with him.
VanZant, an exemplary student, member of the YHS football team and teacher’s aide, said the call made him “a little nervous.”
Those nerves, however, were soon alleviated. As Williamson pulled up to the apartment where VanZant and his mother, Johanna, were anxiously waiting outside, he presented the young scholar with a crisp $100 bill.
In addition to the $100, Williamson presented the VanZants with a $100 Raley’s gift card purchased by Sheriff Jay Varney and his wife Amy.
VanZant was one of about 20 Mountain Area residents contacted by sheriff’s deputies, the majority by traffic stops, to receive a Christmas Gram the afternoon of Dec. 22. An additional 20 surprised people in the Valley also received $100 bills from smiling deputies.
The kind gesture by deputies was made possible by a donation from Agriland Farming Company of Chowchilla, a diverse farming company known for its charitable giving.
Williamson, who puts in a lot of hours at YHS as the resource deputy for the school district, knows many of the students at the school and some of the struggles they are going through.
“Adam is a quality student who is pleasant, polite, helpful to everyone at school, never complains, and has missed just one day of school this year,’ Williamson said.
Upon receiving the $100 bill, VanZant immediately passed it to his mother.
“A lot of kids would not do that,” Williamson said. “I know they need it and I was honored to give them the $100. It affects them in a very positive way, but it also did a lot for me.”
“I pray and hope you will have a nice Christmas,” Williamson told the VanZants.
“This will help a lot this Christmas,” Johanna said with teary eyes.
Agriland provided the sheriff’s office with 40 $100 bills to be used for distribution to county residents singled out by deputies for minor traffic violations.
“In addition to helping people in the community, this also means a lot to the deputies,” Williamson said. “Most the time, when people have contact with deputies, it is a negative experience. Unfortunately, we bring a lot of bad news to people - it’s good for the morale of the deputies to do something positive while helping out some people in our community.”
After his stop at the VanZant residence, Williamson stopped a car in Coarsegold for speeding and missing a front license plate.
“I warned the driver, Emily Beach of Coarsegold, to slow down a bit and mentioned that she was missing the license plate from the front of her car,” Williamson said. “Then I told her that on behalf of Agriland Farming and the sheriff’s office, I wanted to wish her a Merry Christmas and I had a little something for her.”
Upon opening the envelope and seeing the $100 bill, Beach told Williamson “things are tight and this will greatly help buy some gifts for our children.”
Williamson also paid a visit to eighth-grader Mary Thompson in Coarsegold.
“This youngster has made incredible progress in school and I was very happy to reward her and her family,” Williamson said.
“In addition to my grandparents, this shows someone cares,” an appreciative and smiling Thompson told Williamson.
On his day off Friday morning, Williamson visited another Coarsegold family who was in desperate need of firewood. Williamson left the family with a half a cord of wood and a new winter jacket for one of the children. The jacket was also purchased by Varney and his wife.
The family’s mother has been sick and they recently had their power turned off.
Williamson, who has lived in the Mountain Area since he was a baby, has strong feelings for the community.
“I care about the community and the residents who live here, so it was very rewarding for me to be a part of this Christmas giveaway,” Williamson said. “It means a lot to me to be able to do something nice for people in our community.”
Agriland CEO Jim Maxwell said the company and its employees were happy to provide funds to the sheriff’s office to distribute throughout the county.
“We believe the deputies know where the needs are in the community and it certainly builds good will between the sheriff’s office and members of the community,” Maxwell said. “We are happy to help make that connection between the sheriff deputies and community. I saw some video of officers pulling people over in the Valley and passing out $100 bills. The ‘Christmas Grams’ had a big impact on the recipients and they tell others about the remarkable experience they had - hopefully the thought of doing something kind towards another person will lift the whole community.”