By Rachel Leigh| December 23, 2011 at 4:33 PM EST - Updated June 26 at 4:22 AM
ST. LUCIE COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - Santa has his elves at the North Pole, and he also has helpers along the Treasure Coast; however, instead of traveling by sleigh, they're using mass transit.
They're spreading a bit of holiday cheer as a way to say thank you to transit riders.
Jack Kelly, City Commissioner for Port St. Lucie, is on a mission to spread some goodwill.
"You got a free gift!" he said, greeting a woman getting off the bus.
"Thank you!" she said.
All week long, Treasure Coast officials are donning Santa hats and hopping aboard Treasure Coast Connector buses and trolleys to reward some of the more than three thousand transit riders in the community with gift cards.
"I'm your secret Santa," Kelly told Melissa Salmon and her young daughter, Dominique, handing her a manila envelope. "You know I'm your councilman, right?"
"Really?" she asked.
"Yep," he replied. "You get a prize today."
"Well, he surprised me and I'm proud to meet him," Salmon said. "Merry Christmas."
In years past, St. Lucie County and the Treasure Coast Connector were able to give away bus passes for a month or for a week to riders; however, the budget doesn't allow for it. Instead of eliminating the "Secret Santa" program, they asked businesses to help.
"Sunrise Theater gave us 16 tickets to see the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Nylons and A Christmas Carol. We had SuperPlay give us five gift cards for $25 apiece. We had TGI Friday's give us a bunch of gift cards for appetizers and desserts," said St. Lucie County Mobility Coordinator Natasha Moniaco, naming a few of the 17 local sponsors.
The United Way of St. Lucie County was one of them.
"I think it was a very innovative idea and obviously very well received," explained United Way of St. Lucie County Vice President of Community Impact Cris Adams. "The riders were delighted to get a little surprise."
Rodney Malone won free tickets to Heathcote Botanical Gardens.
"You just made my day," he told Commissioner Kelly. "I love it. It's free. You can't beat that. You can't beat it!"
Commissioners say it's a small way to thank the people helping to reduce traffic and emissions on the Treasure Coast and encourage them to continue to take the bus long after the holidays.