The ancient Yule celebration is over for another year, but the spirit of Christmas has left a powerful imprint on 24 families on the Sunshine Coast. One grateful family sent in a letter for publication last week that was addressed to the source of the generosity and goodwill.
“Dearest Secret Santa,” the letter said. “I can’t begin to thank you enough. With rent & hydro so expensive, Christmas was going to be a stressful time. I was contacted by Secret Santa and the stress was lifted. It was over & beyond what I ever expected. We received several gift cards, a lovely turkey, many gifts & we each got a beautiful handmade quilt throw. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing the joy of Christmas to my family.”
The letter was signed: “Sincerely, family #10.”
Every year since 2011, the Sunshine Coast Secret Santa Group has quietly worked its magic with little fanfare and almost no advance publicity. But each year it delivers.
“This season we raised just over $30,520 in donations of goods, gift cards and cash,” organizer Zoe Barbaro said. “We had several businesses that organized their own fundraising events and then just over half a dozen businesses that sponsored families personally.” Local businesses are the backbone of Secret Santa, accounting for the bulk of donations and some contributing “every season without fail.”
Amid the current rental crisis, one business offered free accommodations for several weeks to a family that was “essentially homeless,” Ms. Barbaro said. Now the business has offered them a rental situation at below market value so that it falls within the family’s budget. “This is really what Secret Santa is about and what we hope for – to help families who are down and out get back on their feet again.”
The group’s core of volunteers was assisted this season by about 50 volunteer helpers. Hamper-wrapping events bring together whole families and frequently include past recipients. “A nice trend” this season, Ms. Barbaro said, was seeing recipients from previous years come forward with donations. “Some were in better places and were able to donate quite a bit, and some who may still be living with little gave what little they had to help new families this season. This was very special to witness.”
Delivering the hampers is both rewarding and emotional, she said. Drop-offs are done at night for privacy reasons and to enable the grownups to hide the presents. “There have been a few occasions where little ones have come out to greet us, often asking if we are working for Santa. There are often hugs and almost always tears.”
The response last week by Family No. 10 is not unusual, though people can be so overwhelmed in the actual moment that they don’t know what to say. “Sometimes they will just sign their form to say they received their hamper and say thanks in a kind of shell-shocked way,” Ms. Barbaro relates. “But then we will get an email or text message shortly after with heartfelt thanks, disbelief and joy over the outpouring they received from their community.”
Something this good can’t be kept secret. Don’t you agree?