Surprise donation helps Orlando police hand out gift cards to drivers

News 6 gives $5,000 to continue initiative

ORLANDO, Fla. – When Orlando Police patrol officers started handing out $25 gift cards from Advance Auto Parts, when appropriate, instead of tickets, they were making drivers cry - in a good way. 

Drivers in need were so grateful and so shocked to receive the gift card to repair a broken light or other equipment malfunction instead of a $114 ticket, some were moved to tears. Others cheered. Some even laughed.

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One woman struggling to make ends meet had zip-tied her broken mirror to her door, just to get to work. She got a $25 gift card to put towards her repair.

But Advance Auto Parts had only donated 200 gift cards to OPD. After that, the police department did not have the resources to purchase more.

So News 6 stepped up.

News 6 news director Allison McGinley said when the newsroom saw the results OPD was getting, WKMG had to act.

“When we saw the original story, it stopped the Newsroom,” McGinley said. “And not often does that really happen where everybody says that’s amazing and we have to do something. So this partnership that you [OPD and Advance] have created is really what Getting Results is all about.”

McGinley delivered $5,000 worth of Advance Auto Parts gift cards to Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón and patrol officers -i 200 gifts cards in total, each for $25.

“And this to me at a time when we are in a pandemic, when people are facing unemployment, they’re facing food challenges, they’re facing rising rent costs and home ownership costs, to be able to keep $114 in their pocket while giving them something that keeps the community safe or makes the community safer, makes sense,” McGinley said. “We see a need, and we fill a need. Whether that’s an Angel Tree campaign, or school supplies for children, we do these things year-round. Why not do this in partnership with a law enforcement agency if in fact they’re doing the right thing? Which they are.”

When WKMG gave Rolón the news, at first he thought it was a joke.

“And then to hear the fact that you’re contributing that significant amount of money to make a difference in our community in this way, where people in need will be able to capitalize on the opportunity to use these funds and repair their cars and not have to make choices,” Rolón said. “When you see the end result, when someone who’s being stopped by an officer and in lieu of a citation or whatever else they have been thinking, and officers are actually handing them a gift card so they can get their car repaired, and some are getting emotional based on their experience that they just had, maybe because they were just so pleasantly surprised someone gave them a gift card. That is a godsend.”

Rolón said WKMG’s donation is a first-ever for his department.

“I cannot think of another opportunity or another time when something like this has ever happened,” Rolón said. “I think this is the first time that one of our media partners, in this case WKMG, has actually come forward and said we’re going to support this program and in such a significant way. You’re going to make a difference for people in the community far beyond what you may think. And the fact that you have stepped up and said, as your partners, we’re here to help and delivered all that, for us it’s left us speechless.”

McGinley said WKMG is simply putting its money where its mouth is.

“I think we at WKMG believe in doing what we say we believe in - and that is Getting Results for our community, that’s what we live by,” McGinley said. “And so that means that’s part of covering the news. but that’s also taking those opportunities to be of service and give back to the community. So this one made complete sense. This is the epitome of Getting Results.”

After News 6 first profiled the OPD gift card program in a Getting Results Together segment, OPD said Advance Auto Parts also wanted to keep the program going and has also promised to donate another $5,000 worth of gift cards to OPD.

“And our Getting Results Together stories that we do every week, that is the purpose: to bring the law enforcement community together with the community to ensure that they’re working together. And I don’t think there’s been any better program thus far that has such tangible results attached to it,” McGinley said. “As a news station, it is our responsibility to hold people accountable, but it’s also our responsibility to be of service to our community, and we’ve done that in a multitude of ways, putting an end to texting and driving to the best of our abilities by creating a law, and connecting people with their unemployment when the unemployment system wasn’t working.”

McGinley said WKMG wanted to make sure the gift card giving continues especially throughout the holidays.

“I just hope that somebody, if they get stopped, I hope they’re able to get that tail light or blinker fixed, but I hope they’re able to use that $114 towards something that’s really important to themselves or their family,” McGinley said. “And that’s all I can ask during this holiday time.”


About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.