Secret Santa, Once Homeless, Gives $100 Bills To People In Need

Tom Boland (
Sat, 25 Dec 1999 16:59:58 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  Associated Press - Saturday, Dec. 25, 1999; 4:34 a.m. EST


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Every Christmas for 20 years, the city's "Secret Santa"
has wandered the streets handing $100 bills to those who seem in need.

He was giving out cash on Thursday to people standing on street corners,
waiting for buses, shopping in grocery stores, buying gas.

Now a successful businessman, he went to Nick and Betty's Cafe, where Nick
used to let him run a tab when times weren't so good. He gave waitress Kim
Hoy $300 - one bill for her, and one for each of her children.

"I can't handle this," Hoy said through tears. "This is the first Christmas
without my mom. I wasn't looking forward to it."

The man says he usually gives away $50,000, and estimated he was dispensing
about $85,000 this year. His keeps his identity secret, in the custom of a
"Secret Santa."

"I don't even know that man," said 69-year-old Jerry Brooks, who received
$100 as he shopped for a scarf in a thrift store. "I can't believe that. I
don't know where he came from, but if he doesn't live to be 500, I'll eat
my hat."

As the man continued his tradition this year, he paused to remember why it

It was 1971 in Houston, Miss. He was homeless and hungry, and the owner of
the Dixie Diner bought him breakfast &#150; while saving his dignity.

The man had been working as a salesman for a small company that suddenly
went out of business. Left without a paycheck, he lived in his car for
eight days until running out of gas and food.

Desperate, he walked into Ted Horn's diner, ordered a big breakfast and
tried to think of a way to get away without paying.

Horn, who was his own cook, waiter and cashier, took note of the man's
plight. He walked behind the man, reached down as if he'd dropped something
and handed him $20.

The man ran as fast as he could, pushed his car to the gas station and got
out of town.

On the road, though, he thought about what Horn had done.

This year, he asked a friend to help him find Horn, and went back down to

He walked into Horn's home to find him holding a magazine article about
Kansas City's "Secret Santa." Horn, 81, knew the man in the article was the
person he'd helped many years ago.

"I'm that guy who was there 28 years ago," the man said. Horn nodded.

He asked Horn what he thought that $20 bill was worth today.

"Probably like $10,000," Horn said.

A good number, the man said, and handed him an envelope. Inside was $10,000.

"Good God," whispered Horn, who is caring for a wife with Alzheimer's
disease after battling cancer and other ailments.

David Horn, his son, was astounded.

"For this man to come down and do this for my father - it's almost more
than we can bear," he said.

The man and Horn then went downtown and had lunch, and soon, his giving
ways began again. Waitresses and cooks cried out in joy.

Then he went to a laundry, to a drive-in, to the barber cutting hair where
Horn's diner used to be, leaving a trail of cash everywhere.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
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