Civic and business leaders will return to the Brighter Christmas Jail this year in a virtual format.

Steve Abercrombie, Brighter Christmas director, said the annual fundraiser will have about a dozen or so people in a virtual jail raising donations for the charity.

“The jail is our biggest fundraiser and it’s very crucial for us,” Abercrombie said. “Even though we get a lot of donations we still have to buy bread, we have to buy the gift cards from WinCo, we buy tortillas, so we have to fill in the gaps so it’s real important that we get those financial contributions.”

Last year’s Brighter Christmas jail, which is usually set up in a high-profile downtown location, was cancelled because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

“We were able to provide everything last year, but we didn’t receive as many donations because we didn’t have our jail and people who normally do fundraisers for us couldn’t,” Abercrombie said. “So, we came up with this idea to still be cautious and be respectful of people’s concerns regarding COVID but allow people to help out Brighter Christmas at the same time.”

The last time the jail was held in 2019 about two dozen people spent the day raising $8,500 for Brighter Christmas.

The virtual jail will be on the charity’s website at and planned to have about a dozen or so people.

“So, people will be able to go to our website and we’ll have Gene Birk listed at the top, our founder — he’s the judge, and people have graciously volunteered to have their pictures posted and then Gene will set their bail amount and then people can click on that person and donate toward their bail,” Abercrombie said.

Two people who have committed to be in the virtual jail fundraiser are Tracy Chief of Police Sekou Millington and South San Joaquin County Fire Authority Chief Randall Bradley.

“I contacted the two chiefs and asked them if they would participate and we decide to have a little friendly competition between the two of them of who could raise the most money between the two chiefs,” Abercrombie said. “I have an undisclosed prize for the winning chief, but we may have a booby prize for the loser.”

Members of the community can also volunteer to be in the Brighter Christmas Jail.

“If they want to, or in the past we have had people nominate their boss or nominate their principal and we will contact that person and if they are willing to do it, we will get their picture posted and go from there,” Abercrombie said.

People wanting to participate or nominate someone for the virtual jail can contact Abercrombie at

The virtual jail will begin the first week of December and is slated to run for two weeks ending on Dec. 15.

• Contact the Tracy Press at or 835-3030.

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