The ‘Secret Santa” performed multiple random acts of kindness Tuesday, handing out $100 bills to the city’s needy in an annual act of Holiday giving. Here he is seen at the Albany Rescue Mission. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — The upcoming holidays were made a little brighter for many needy Albanians Tuesday When ‘Secret Santa’ slipped into town and began handing $100 bills to surprised people all over town.
The Society of Secret Santas is an anonymous group of individuals throughout the world, performing random acts of kindness to those less fortunate.
Using their own financial resources, without a tax deduction and without soliciting funds from others, these people share their wealth with those in need. They give from their hearts remaining forever anonymous. A spokesperson for the Society of Secret Santas said Tuesday that there are usually “four to six” Secret Santas who spread joy each holiday season.
Accompanied by several different law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Albany Police Department, the Dougherty County Police Department and Dougherty Sheriff Kevin Sproul and The Albany Herald, the day’s “sleigh ride” began at the Lord’s Pantry.
When the entourage pulled up to the mission, blue lights blazing, some of the people meandering in front of the building were confused at first — but that didn’t last long.
The Secret Santa told the people in the mission that he was there to spread joy, and began handing out $100 bills. The gift, however, came with strings attached.
“If you are ever in a position to help others, remember this and do it,” he said.
Some of the recipients were moved to tears.
“Oh, thank you, thank you,” said one woman who did not want to be identified. “This money will help us so much. I thank Lord Jesus for you and your kindness.”
As the sleigh ride caravan pulled away, a woman came running out of the building waving a $100 bill and shouted, “God bless you, Merry Christmas!”
The next stop was the Albany Rescue Mission. Jacquelyn Wright had just arrived looking for help in providing for an infant. She was given $200.
“I came here to get some help for my baby. I had no other place to go,” she said. “Now I can buy some milk and new shoes for my baby. This makes everything better. Thank you Jesus because there are some good people in this world who are willing to help poor people.”
Needless to say, the Secret Santa quickly drew a crowd, and at least 15 people received unexpected random acts of kindness in the form of $100 bills — all stamped “Secret Santa” on the back in red ink.
The sleigh ride then sped off to the Goodwill Store on North Slappey Boulevard.
The Secret Santa handed Kimberly Hall, who was shopping with three children, $200 and the refrain “help others when you can.”
“I was totally surprised and it caught me off guard,” Hall said of the unexpected gift. “This money will definitely help us get through this Christmas.”
As the Secret Santa was spreading goodwill throughout the store, one of his ‘elves,’ FBI Special Agent David Burlew was watching.
“This is my fifth year running with this man, and it is uplifting to see a man with such a huge heart who sees the good in everyone. He genuinely wants to help,”Burlew said. “It’s been a genuine honor and privilege to run with him for the past five years.”
The sleigh ride wrapped up in mid afternoon after several more stops. The Secret Santa refused to say exactly how much money he handed out to total strangers on Tuesday. Suffice to say the amount was not insignificant.
He added that his motivation for the kindness and was the original secret Santa, Larry Stewart, who spent 26 years handing out more than $1.3 million during the holiday season. Stewart died in 2007 and Albany’s Secret Santa picked up the mantle.
“Larry and I were close friends. The way I look at things, it’s uplifting to help people without them having to beg for it,” the Secret Santa said. “And if we can change one or two lives along the way, then it’s worth the effort.”