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Fillmore County Sheriff's Office becomes 100th partner for keeping vehicle lights on

About 80% of the state's population is covered by Lights On! partnerships.

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The Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the non-profit Lights On! to hand out vouchers to motorists that cover the cost of replacing a headlight, taillight or turn signal. The voucher distribution will begin in March, and in the mean time Sgt. Jessy Betts, pictured, with the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office, is searching for partner full-service garages in the county. Sgt. Betts is pictured Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Spring Valley. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Partnering up with the Minnesota non-profit Lights On! was a win-win for the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office -- keeping the roads safe and helping drivers.

"Like a lot of places, we’ve been looking at ways to do our duties professionally but still have positive community interaction," Fillmore County Sheriff's Office patrol Sgt. Jessy Betts. "We're always looking for ways to increase our community relations. As a bonus, this program allow us to offer a helping hand when we can."

Betts said he became aware of the program about two months ago from a family member in Duluth who received one of the Lights On! vouchers.

ALSO READ: RPD teams up with Minneapolis nonprofit to turn the lights on

The "Lights On!" program is a part of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit MicroGrants and gives members of law enforcement vouchers to hand out to motorists that cover the costs of replacing a headlight, taillight or turn signal.

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"This all started with a dream, a vision for one town in the metro, Columbia Heights, and the reception was so positive that we felt ... if it was positive in one place, it would be positive all over," said Don Samuels, CEO of Lights On! "We had the dream of going metro-wide and called up about 20 chiefs and 19 of them said 'yes, lets do it.' Within a couple of months, we had them all on board. That was very big deal, we discovered we had created something that found such resonance with some many different police departments."

Fillmore County became the 100th partner agency when it joined last month. The voucher distribution will begin in March and in the interim, Betts is working to find partner full-service garages in the county.

When someone is given a voucher, they take it to participating auto service providers to get the light fixed free of charge. The vouchers cover up to $250 worth of repairs for the broken lights.

Since its inception in 2017, approximately 3,000 vouchers have been issued statewide.

The Rochester Police Department began its partnership with Lights On! in 2019. Since the vouchers arrived in Rochester, officers have handed out a total of 54 -- nearly half were handed out by the DWI officer Eric Christenson.

"I usually try to have a little fun with it. I tell them they’re getting a ticket, but return with a ticket, or voucher, to get their headlight repaired," Christenson said in a statement to the Post Bulletin. "Everyone has been extremely appreciative and grateful. Lights On! is a great program where we can engage with drivers and offer a helpful solution."

In Southeastern Minnesota, partner agencies include the Dodge, Goodhue, Wabasha and Winona County Sheriff's Offices as well as police departments in Lake City, Winona, Wabasha and Red Wing.

The voucher program is funded by donations. Lights On! expanded nationally to law enforcement agencies in Kansas, New York and Iowa last year and has other national expansions planned for 2021. More information about the program itself, as well as how to donate, can be found at www.lightsonus.org.

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