Shawnee’s Secret Santa pours thousands of dollars into community

Master Patrolman Mike Saylor gave J. Salabarria a $100 bill from the Shawnee Police Department’s anonymous Secret Santa.

J. Salabarria thought he was in trouble for sure. Why else would the Shawnee police vehicle be pulling up beside him as he walked home?

So when Master Patrolman Mike Saylor walked up to him and handed him a $100 bill — no questions — his face changed from concern to confusion and finally, to delight.

“It’s really unexpected, I thought did I do something?” Salabarria said. “It saved my life. I could do something, do it right now, for my momma. She needs it more than me. It’ll just help her out.”

For the past several years, an anonymous donor has provided Shawnee police with thousands of dollars to hand out around the community during the holiday season. The police officers find their own ways of passing out the cash; some will talk to apartment managers and community leaders to find out specific people to help.

Drew Albus said it was unexpected but appreciated to receive $100 from the Shawnee police’s Secret Santa.

Saylor, a patrol officer in the department’s traffic safety unit, has a different style. He spent some time at the QuikTrip at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Goddard, put $100 on a card and, together with the store staff, helped purchase food items for dozens of people.

But most of the time, he likes to stop people who have committed small infractions — a tail light is out, for example — and he spends a few extra minutes listening to their story. He then folds up the bill, covers the “100” on the note with a paper about Secret Santa, hands it to them and walks away. People don’t realize the amount until he’s had a few seconds to walk away.

“I don’t want a thank you, necessarily, for it,” Saylor said. “This is just kind of a ‘hey, help your day out.’ This is just a nice gesture. It doesn’t matter the amount, it’s the gesture. It’s one nice person doing something for somebody else. That’s all.”

One resident, Drew Albus, said it was pretty unusual and unexpected when Saylor pulled him over for having expired tags. But Saylor asked him to use the $100 to help him get everything updated.

“I didn’t expect that after getting a ticket, but times are hard out here for everybody, and for somebody to be thinking of nobody in particular, just any random person that might get stopped that day, and doing this to make their day a little better is really nice,” Albus said. “It’s really cool, and I think that says a lot about the fact that there’s still some good people out there who still care.”