Wealthy 'Santa' brings cheer to New York

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The Independent US

Christmas cheer is missing for some in New York this year, but one man has been trying his best to remedy that.

They call him Secret Santa and his mission is a simple one: to spot the people with the saddest faces and press some crisp cash in their hands.

After three days of strolling the streets of Manhattan, he calculated that he had given away about $25,000 (£17,000) of his own money, mostly to complete strangers. He also donated large sums to church charities he encountered.

Secret Santa, a wealthy businessman from the Kansas City area, keeps quiet about his identity. But he was once homeless himself and he has been doing his cash-dispensing rounds for several years. This year, he decided to go to New York for the first time because of the 11 September atrocities.

He gets responses ranging from thrilled to confused. One place to feel his largesse was the Lamb's Church of the Nazarene in downtown Manhattan. Pastor John Bowen said: "He just breezed in off the street and handed a bundle of $100 bills to one of our staff, and then he vanished." The notes came to $5,000.

You can e-mail him at secretsanta1971@aol.com