An Unexpected Gift: Santa hands out $100 bills and joy

7:54 PM, Dec 25, 2012   |    comments
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Santa Hands out $100 bills

A Springfield Secret Santa passed out $100 bills on Christmas Eve.

It was a half hour from closing on a cold Christmas Eve, and the last few customers were milling around inside the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Springfield, Mo., when a man approached the register.

Behind the counter, Amber Moller was scanning items for another customer, but she absentmindedly asked the man if he'd found the sweaters he'd asked about when he walked into the store.

He responded with a question of his own.

"Is Santa going to be coming to see you this year?" he asked.

Moller began bagging the customer's items.

"Oh, well, he'll come and see my kids; I don't know if he'll come and see me," she said, with a half-hearted laugh.

The man took his left hand out of his pocket.

"Oh, I bet he'll come and see you," he said. "He'll probably come and see you right about now. Merry Christmas."

At those words, Moller looked up for the first time and saw the man with an outstretched hand, and a $100 bill. For a brief moment, her eyes widened. Then she teared up.

"You don't know how bad I needed that," she said, her face buried in her hands.

'Twas the night before Christmas, and Santa drove a GMC Sierra Denali.

Behind the wheel, the man asked to be identified only as the owner of a construction company in the Stockton Lake area. He had decided he wanted to do this - to drive around Springfield and give $100 bills to those in need - last year, he said. He was inspired by a "Secret Santa" who did something similar in the Kansas City area.

"I have been successful myself, and I feel like I need to give back," he said.

In the passenger seat beside him was Tim Burk, a Springfield resident. The two, who are now in their 50s, met in the seventh grade, Burk said. On Monday evening, Burk wore an elf hat to accompany his friend's traditional Santa hat, and suggested places they might stop. Earlier in the day, Burk had invited a News-Leader reporter along.

They began at the thrift store, where the man slipped Katina Dickinson, another thrift store worker, a $100 bill before going up to Moller. Dickinson said she'd heard of things like that happening in large cities, she said, but not here.

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