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ALTON - The Alton Police Department has been spreading some holiday cheer throughout the city with their annual Summons of Joy program.

Citizens pulled over Wednesday afternoon for minor traffic violations, such as a missing front license plates or a broken headlight, were surprised to find Officer Zach Dellamano hand them a $50 gift card instead of a traffic ticket, a Summons of Joy rather than a summons to appear in court.

For the last two months the Alton Police Department has given the officers a chance to donate money toward the gift cards and in return they've been able to break uniform slightly by growing a beard.

After issuing one driver a Summons of Joy, and receiving multiple hugs, Officer Dellamano said it's an incredibly rewarding experience to be a part of, especially during the holiday season.

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Officer Emily Hejna said 32 employees within the department participated in the fundraising efforts this year to purchase a total of 24 gift cards for Aldi, Target, Shop n Save and Dollar General. Henja said all of the funds for the cards come completely from the officers own pockets.

The Alton Police Department has spent a good portion of the this month volunteering their time to helping families in the community through events last week's Shop with a Cop and the prior week's food basket deliveries.

Hejna said programs like the Summons of Joy are not only a great opportunity for the department to give back but it also gives the community a chance to see a different side to the officers.

"These are really great humans, and that's not always the side of them that the public gets to see very often," Hejna said.

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Alton Police 'Summons of Joy' program