Posted December 21 2010, 2:40 AM PST by Tara Sharp

There are secret Santas amongst us…

Posted in Collections and drives and Inspiration and ideas by Tara Sharp

HolidaySantaI recently read this great story about the Kansas City Secret Santa. Every year for twenty-six years, an anonymous man dressed in red or a Santa disguise would hand out $100 bills to people in need of help. His identity was disclosed in 2006, shortly before he died of cancer. People all over the world, inspired by his story, are now are carrying on the tradition of benevolent Santa. This story made me think about the amazing stories we hear every day at the Windermere Foundation.

We hear stories of families in tremendous need, stories of people’s willingness to give, and the joy and surprise of receiving support when other doors have closed. We hear stories that are heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring, hopeful and chill-inducing. There are Secret Santas amongst us; we have seen a few at work.  We are indebted and inspired by the people we work with and their great capacity for giving. We feel pretty lucky to do what we do, and we’re grateful for all the Windermere agents that make the Foundation possible.

Families in need come to the Foundation through various means. Some families are referred to us directly through social service agencies; some receive support through organizations with which our offices partner as a part of their commitment to community; and sometimes we hear about a family going through so much and we reach out ourselves. The particular story I want to share with you must have been kismet.

Christine Wood, our Foundation director, received an email from a friend last week -- a forward from a local teacher she knew who was the kindergarten instructor to the younger of two sisters. The teacher had become concerned about her young student missing so much school, and upon inquiry she found out the older of the two sisters has been going through a grueling four rounds of chemotherapy over the last seven months.

Their mother, who generally cleans houses to support her two young daughters, has lost her steady job in order to ensure her oldest daughter can make it through treatments at Children’s Hospital. She is a single mother and has few resources to support her daughters, and as a result of their circumstances they are homeless.

They have tried every route of support, but have slipped through the cracks of various social services -- likely due to the increased need of services as well as reduced resources. The family has moved several times and has had temporary housing with friends and Ronald McDonald House; but they are primarily living out of their car. Due to this instability, the youngest daughter has had to move schools three times.

In October the older sister, Lizeth, was featured on a KOMO news special when her Grandmother fulfilled her wish by coming to visit from Mexico. Lizeth has a very rare form of Leukemia. She received a bone marrow transplant this week, increasing her chance of survival; however the prognosis is still not great.

This family’s need for support is large. The immediate needs have been a working car and money for rent and basic needs. Early this week, we contacted one of our own secret Santas, who has consistently opened their heart to Foundation causes and provided when we couldn’t.  As luck would have it, they recently acquired a new car and were preparing to sell their lightly used car THAT DAY.  Within two days, we were able to deliver a new car to this wonderful family in need.

This was a tremendous and inspiring gift from one of our own agents, and one outside the scope of what most of us can give. But support at any level can make a tremendous difference for needy families, and we are truly grateful to all of the secret Santas who have reached out to help. If you too are interested in helping this family, donations can be made at Key Bank under the Lizeth Gonzalez Fund or through the Windermere Foundation (please indicate that you would like your donation designated for the Lizeth Gonzalez fund). Our goal is to ensure this family has the financial support they need, as well as some holiday cheer.

Of course, this is just one of many heart-wrenching stories of need, and just a few of the countless ways in which help is given throughout the year. For example, many Windermere offices participate in an annual adopt-a-family program, purchasing gifts, groceries, basic-need items and more for families going through hard times. We are grateful for all the generous support our offices, agents and neighbors provide for our communities.

Stories like these truly give us a sense of hope. Particularly this time of year, we are inspired by the secret Santas amongst us.

Thank you for your support of the Windermere Foundation! Have a wonderful Holiday and a Happy New Year.

1 Comment


  • [...] Nearly 50 Windermere offices participated in adopting families during the holiday season. Agents shopped, wrapped, and delivered gifts and food to hundreds of families in need of a little holiday cheer. The generosity of offices, brokers and participating community members was really remarkable. To learn more about the surprises this year, go here. [...]

    Posted February 03 2011, 5:12 AM by Starting the New Year Right | Windermere Foundation