A elderly gentleman dressed in red and wearing a cap with "Elf" embroidered on the back brightened up the holiday season for residents of Reading, Pa, when he visited the Salvation Army thrift shop, laundromats and bus terminals passing out $100 bills.
Reading Eagle journalist Ron Devlin accompanied the businessman, who identified himself as "Secret Santa," as he was escorted throughout the city by the Reading Police Department handing out $20,000 to some of the city's neediest families. The $100 bills were stamped "Secret Santa" on the back in red ink.
Devlin said the good Samaritan was inspired to visit Reading, population 65,000, when he learned that it was the poorest city in the nation, reports the Reading Eagle. "Cities like Reading are experiencing tough economic times," Secret Santa said. "It's time for us to step up, not step back."
Secret Santa said he was carrying on a tradition begun by Kansas City philanthropist Larry Stewart, known as "Kansas City's Secret Santa," who reportedly gave away 1.3 million to needy people, over a 25 year period, during the holiday season.
The anonymous Santa Claus said his joy is received in helping others. "That's where I get so much satisfaction. Because behind every one, there's a story. And to hear their story, and what a difference that little bit of money at that little point in time makes in their life, gives me an awful lot of joy. So there's a lot of happiness that comes with this. I get more joy out of it than they do."
The Secret Santa's gift doesn't come without a hitch. He asks each person he helps to repay his generosity with one of their own before Christmas day arrives. "Anybody can be a Secret Santa," said the Secret Santa in the Reading Eagle video posted on YouTube. "All they have to do is act. And it doesn't have to be about money. It can be any random act of kindness of any kind."