Anonymous Santas surprise families in need at Linkages with $12,000 gift - Anonymous Santas surprise families in need at Linkages with $12,000 gift -

Anonymous Santas surprise families in need at Linkages with $12,000 gift


Usually when people see Stacey DePoe coming with papers in her hands, they might wince or even tiptoe the other way.

“They’re like: ‘Ughhh, what paperwork do I need to fill out now?!'” said DePoe, director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton’s Linkages program, which provides transitional housing in Tinton Falls for people and families exiting homelessness.

But today, DePoe felt like an announcer from Publishers Clearing House. A Middletown couple visited Linkages this morning with 24 envelopes for the 21 families and three single adults now living there. Each envelope contained $500 in cash. The couple asked DePoe to deliver their gifts, and DePoe and her staff happily complied.

“They just started hysterically crying and laughing,” DePoe (pictured right, with program Coordinator Caitlin Smith) said of the Linkages residents. “Can you imagine someone just walking up to you and giving you $500? For anyone, that’s amazing, but for them, who don’t have much money if any in their pockets, it was awesome. And it was just as exciting for us to hand it to them as it was for them to get it.”

Philanthropy instilled at an early age

The couple who donated the cash – $12,000 altogether – asked to remain anonymous. While they have supported area charities for years, they explained they wanted to do something more personal and impactful this year by directly supporting people in need during what has been a very tough year.

“Neither of us grew up with a lot,” said the donor, a retired teacher who added that she and her husband were raised Catholic and learned to give to others from an early age. “My mother was very involved in social justice issues and taught us we have to always look out for a person who has less than you.”

While supporters often are generous around the holidays, Linkages (pictured, left) has rarely seen this level of support from a single donor, DePoe said. The fact that the support is cash that families can use however they need is especially appreciated, she added.

“With the pandemic and quarantine, most of our families and individuals are home all day long, so their financial needs have increased” from both the economic punch of the pandemic and remote schooling (with kids at home, instead of school, driving up household costs), DePoe said. “This donation will help them get through the pandemic and this holiday season.”

After delivering the last of the gifts, DePoe (having fun with holiday photo filters, right) was still smiling this afternoon. “I wish I’d worn my Santa hat!” she joked.

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Linkages welcomes donations, financial or otherwise. To support or learn more about Linkages, call director Stacey DePoe at (732) 922-0400, or Dana DiFilippo, Catholic Charities communications, at [email protected] or (215) 756-6277 (cell).

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