'Santa' Showers $100 Bills On Storm-Hit N.J., N.Y.

By Verena Dobnik

NEW YORK (AP) - A wealthy Missouri man posing as "Secret Santa" stunned New Yorkers, handing $100 bills to many in Staten Island who had lost everything to Superstorm Sandy.

The Kansas City businessman is giving away $100,000 this holiday season, and spent the day in New Jersey and New York giving away thousands. But he says money is not the issue.

"The money is not the point at all," said the anonymous benefactor on Thursday as he walked up to surprised Staten Island residents and thrust crisp bills into their hands. "It's about the random acts of kindness. I'm just setting an example, and if 10 percent of the people who see me emulate what I'm doing, anybody can be a Secret Santa!"

A police motorcade with sirens took him across the borough, passing a church ripped from its foundations and homes surrounded by debris. At a nearby disaster center run by volunteers, a woman quietly collected free food and basic goods.

"Has anyone given you any money?" he asked her.

"No," replied Carol Hefty, a 72-year-old retiree living in a damaged home.

"Here," he said, slipping the money into her hand.

"But this isn't real money!" said Hefty, glancing at the red "Secret Santa" stamped onto the $100.

"It is, and it's for you," he told her.

She broke down weeping and hugged him.

And so it went, again and again.

Secret Santa started his daylong East Coast visit with stops in Elizabeth, N.J. Keeping close watch over the cash handouts was his security entourage - police officers in uniform from New York and New Jersey, plus FBI agents and former agents from various states. Some have become supporters, wearing red caps marked with the word "elf" and assisting "Santa" to choose locations where people are most in need. He himself wears an "elf" cap and a red top, plus blue jeans.

The group must choose stops carefully, and refrain from simply appearing outdoors in a neighborhood, lest they be mobbed by people hearing that cash is being handed out.

At a stop at a Staten Island Salvation Army store, one woman was looking over a $4 handbag. "But you get $100!" he told her, offering the bill.

"Are you serious?" said Prudence Onesto, her eyes widening. "Really?"

"Secret Santa," he deadpanned, breaking into a broad grin.

The 55-year-old unemployed woman opened her arms and offered him a hug.

An aisle over, 41-year-old Janice Kennedy was overwhelmed: She received four $100 bills.

Unemployed with a 2-year-old daughter, she lost her home in the storm and lives with her boyfriend. The money will go toward Christmas presents and her toddler's next birthday.

"You're not alone. God bless you!" the Missouri stranger told Phillip and Lisa Morris, a couple in their 30s whose home was badly damaged - but now had an extra $300 in cash for rebuilding.

Secret Santa took up the holiday tradition from a close Kansas City friend, Larry Stewart, who for years handed out bills each December to unsuspecting strangers in thrift stores, food pantries and shelters. Stewart died in 2007 after giving away more than $1 million to strangers in mostly $100 bills.

The current Secret Santa will not divulge his name. Nor does he allow his face to be photographed. But he said he's been to cities across America, from San Diego to Chicago to Charlotte, N.C.

A reporter asked whether he might be a sort of Warren Buffett of Kansas City. He smiled mysteriously and said only that he admires Buffett for his philanthropy. "And I hope I give all my money away before I die."

Then, as suddenly as he arrived, the generous stranger left for the airport and home, riding in the volunteer motorcade he jokingly calls "my sleigh," zipping with ease through red lights and city traffic.

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Ray Flellito wonder's what's going on in staten island,that the place is a disater and no one seen to care, please my friend don't you know that the elections are over, thas all my friend, Obama doesn't give a dam abouth any body but his people, you chould know that by now. bye and good luck

December 01 2012 at 6:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hats off to this Secret Santa. He didn’t have to spend his time and money to give these people a moment of happiness. He doesn’t know these people and most likely will never see their faces again. He asked to remain anonymous, no pictures, no identification of who he is. He’s not looking for recognition or to have his name on the front page of every major paper. Nor is he looking for a Tax loophole. He just wants to see a few smiles from those who haven’t smiled in a long time. Secret Santa’s only reward is that indescribable feeling you get within your heart and soul when you’ve done something for a person or person’s unknown who are in need of help. And you do this without an ounce of selfishness or personal gain on your part. I know the feeling that enters your soul and heart because I helped someone I felt was in need earlier this year. I was behind this person as she was checking out the groceries in her cart. A feeling surrounded me like never before and I felt this young woman needed some financial assistance. I told her I’d like to pay for the groceries she was purchasing. No strings attached, just a good Samaritan helping another out. Her expression was priceless. She said she felt like hugging me. I pulled out my credit card to pay and told her to buy something nice for herself (with the cash still in her wallet) as she turned to go. That was the last we ever saw of each other. By the time I checked out my $95.00+ items, she was long gone. The cashier smiled at me and said that was a nice thing I did. She agreed with me that the girl was stressing over the money her purchase was going to cost. And just to keep the records straight, I’m not as well off as the Secret Santa is (I’m permanently disabled and living off my Disability Social Security checks). Anyhow, I didn’t bother to look at the total on her receipt till I got home. Her purchases were a little higher than mine but I had a feeling inside of me I wouldn’t have changed for the world. Try it and pass it on!!!! You’ll know what I mean.

December 01 2012 at 1:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Those that give have enough because after the government have rape every dime they could , they still have enought to give. These are the one precent the wealthy; most are very giving to good causes. We need a smaller government one without so many taxes and fees. Let us start here first, education, take care of the poor, the children and the aged. Only then IF there is anything left we would spead it to the rest of the world. If we can not solve our problems here, how can we solve them elsewhere!!

November 30 2012 at 8:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ray Felitto

Staten Island is a disaster....and where is the press ??? The hiuman suffering is Katrina -like. And where is the press ? Fox is the only one covering this disaster.

November 30 2012 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

uptil I saw the receipt for $6064, I be certain ...that...my friend could truley erning money in there spare time at their computer.. there brothers friend haz done this 4 only twelve months and at present repaid the dept on their place and bought a great Peugeot 205 GTi. we looked here, _+_+_+ WWW.BIT40.COM _+_+_+

November 30 2012 at 2:23 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kevin's comment

What the heck are you talking about? You are living proof that a mind is a terrible waste!

November 30 2012 at 8:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No name huh? Makes u wonder if the story is true or just sounds good.

November 30 2012 at 2:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There is a Santa Claus!

November 30 2012 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Whoever you are God bless you, you are wonderful :)

November 30 2012 at 1:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The richest should learn from him instead of making use of the tax credit to enrich themself.

November 30 2012 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Peter's comment

the rich got rich by working hard ... they set the example ... if you work hard, you will be succesful
too many free rides .. or those who expect others to pay their way

November 30 2012 at 3:03 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply