Novi police officer Tony Avant talks to a driver before handing the driver a gift card Tuesday, Dec. 7, during a traffic stop in Novi.

Novi police officer Tony Avant talks to a driver before handing the driver a gift card Tuesday, Dec. 7, during a traffic stop in Novi.

Photo by Brian Wells


Novi police hold annual Kindness Is Contagious program

By: Brian Wells | Novi Note | Published December 23, 2021

 Novi police officer Tony Avant holds a gift card while he patrols the streets of Novi during the Kindness Is Contagious program Tuesday, Dec. 7.

Novi police officer Tony Avant holds a gift card while he patrols the streets of Novi during the Kindness Is Contagious program Tuesday, Dec. 7.

Photo by Brian Wells

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NOVI — When Mikell Manley was pulled over by Novi police officer Tony Avant for having a headlight out, she thought she was in trouble.

“I do not have the world’s greatest record,” she said. “So I haven’t really had very positive experiences with police officers.”

Manley was traveling on Novi Road, on her way to do a cleaning job for a friend with her three kids, when she was pulled over. Times had been hard for her lately, she said, and she was taking on odd jobs and doing deliveries for DoorDash just to pay rent. A ticket was only going to add to her problems.

But instead of a ticket, the officer handed her a gift card worth $50 to Walmart. The money would go toward getting food and other items for her children, Manley said.

Earlier in the day, Kaylee Hammerstein was pulled over by Avant while driving to work at Tim Hortons. She was stopped for running a stop sign and having an expired plate. The last few months had been hard for Hammerstein, and she was struggling to buy groceries and medications she needed.

But just like Manley, Hammerstein was presented with a $50 gift card instead of a ticket.

“The last couple of months have been really difficult,” Hammerstein said, tears streaming from her eyes. “That’s actually the first gift I’ve gotten in almost a year.”

“Some people are happy to get it, but you can tell that it was something that she needed,” Avant said.

Unbeknownst to them, Hammerstein and Manley were both part of the Novi Police Department’s Kindness Is Contagious program. Through the program, instead of receiving a ticket for a minor infraction, drivers are given a gift card to a store such as Walmart.

The gift cards are purchased by money donated to the department by Moe’s On Ten. The money was raised as donations during the restaurant’s free Thanksgiving dinner.

“It’s a good way to put the money back into the community,” said Novi Police Sgt. Rachel Meier. “It’s just a good opportunity for the police officers to be seen in a different light.”

It’s also a good way to surprise people and turn things around for them, Meier said.

Avant, who has been an officer with the department for about 21 years, does his best to make sure the gift cards go to people who really need them, such as a single mother. When he approaches a car to get the driver’s license, he asks questions to try to understand the person’s situation.

“I want to make it count,” Avant said. “It really feels like you’re helping people.”

Contact Brian Wells at (586) 498-1081, (248) 291-7637 or bwells@candgnews.com.

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