Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson spreads holiday cheer. | Ryan Burns

Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson and Public Information Officer Brittany Powell were playing unofficial Santa Clauses in Old Town Eureka this afternoon, handing out MasterCard gift cards loaded with $100 apiece to unsuspecting local citizens.

A woman named Leah, pictured above with her two kids, got emotional when Watson handed her a card and explained what it was.

“It makes the world seem hopeful,” she told the Outpost while wiping away tears.

“We’ve had tears several times,” Watson said afterward.

The cards — 50 in all — were donated by a local who wants to remain anonymous. Powell said Eureka police officers handed out 13 of them yesterday, spreading the bounty to everyone in the Fresh Freeze burger joint on Harris Street — customers and employees alike.

“There was an elderly grandma by herself eating a hotdog,” Watson said. “She got teary-eyed.” Other recipients have included young families, an incredulous man walking down Opera Alley and “a couple guys who probably didn’t have a house,” Watson said.

Powell said they’re saving some of the cards so that officers working the night and weekend shifts get a chance to spread the joy.

This man could not believe the gift was for-real.

Here’s an EPD Facebook post from Wednesday: