100-year-old 'Santa' pays it forward at Colorado Springs homeless shelter

By Barb Cotter Published: December 25, 2013 | 2:50 pm 0

Ten dollars.

To a Donald Trump or Bill Gates, it's pocket change.

To Dakota Schroeder, it's a meal.

To Debbie Crewe, it's cough medicine.

To Randy Clark, it's a bus pass that will get him to his job.

On Christmas Day, Santa came to the R.J. Montgomery Center in Colorado Springs to hand out pocket-sized booklets of the Gospel of John to Schroeder, Crewe, Clark and the other 160 or so homeless shelter residents. Sticking out of each booklet was $10 in cash - not a fortune, but enough to make a difference to people with little money to spare.

Santa is - well, let's just refer to him as Santa, because he doesn't want his name publicized, and he really doesn't want the story to be about him. But he wants others to know what he did to perhaps create a spark.

"I thought maybe if someone knows about this, they'll be inspired to do the same thing," said Santa, dressed in a herringbone sport coat and gray pants in lieu of a velvety red suit.

We can tell you that this Santa is 100 years old and a former Navy man who went on to work with The Navigators, a Colorado Springs-based Christian ministry. His son says he's always been generous, and recounts a time long ago when Santa paid for someone's car.

Santa said he came up with the idea to hand out the booklets and cash to shelter residents a year after his wife died "and there was nothing to do." He drove around town, and spotted a group of homeless people who were hanging out in front of a social service organization.

"I feel sorry for these guys on Christmas," Santa said. "They have no family; nowhere to go."

He started his giveaway at the Salvation Army's Montgomery Center two years ago, handing out $5 bills. Santa bumped it up to $10 this year, throwing in extra bills for those with children - and was greeted with choruses of "thank you's," "God bless you's" and "you're awesome" as the residents stepped up one-by-one to meet their benefactor.

"I won't have to starve for the next week," said Schroeder, who is 21, pregnant and about out of food stamps.

"It means I can get some cough medicine," said Crewe, who had been staying in a house without water or heat before she moved to the Montgomery Center two weeks ago.

Clark planned to use his money to pay for transportation to his job at Memorial Hospital.

"It's a blessing," Clark said. "This is my bus pass to work for the next week. This helps me get my paycheck. Many of us are thankful and grateful."

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