The spirit of generosity is alive and well in Reading, Pa., after several people received $100 bills from a Secret Santa.
According to census statistics, the northeastern town has the highest poverty rate of cities across the nation. Many of its 90,000 residents were hit hard by the recession, losing their jobs and homes.
"I was brought up to believe that you take care of your family, but I can't find a job," Thomas Coates Jr. told the Reading Eagle.
A man, who only identifies himself as “Secret Santa,” approached Coates in a bus terminal and handed him $100, he told reporters.
The stranger, who will only describe himself as a businessman, popped up all over Reading to hand out bills stamped in red with the words “Secret Santa,” according to the paper. He was escorted by police. In all, he gave out $20,000. The city was only one of several different cities the “Santa” plans to visit.
The man told the newspaper he was continuing a tradition started by the late Larry Stewart of Kansas. Stewart gave away $1.3 million of his own money over 25 years, posing as Secret Santa.
The current Secret Santa handed $100 bills to Reading residents, including a struggling medical students to harried mothers, the paper reported.
“I get more out of it than they do,” the Secret Santa told the newspaper. “I’ve had people say, you know, ‘You saved my life. I was going to commit suicide.’ I’ve had people say, ‘I couldn’t pay my heat. … I hadn’t eaten in days.”
"Cities like Reading are experiencing tough economic times," the mystery Santa said. "It's time for us to step up, not step back."