An anonymous resident might have the answer to how you can revive your own — and possibly someone else’s — Christmas spirit with a little real-life magic.
“Clandestine Kringle,” as he is known to his Facebook friends, is coordinating a grass-roots holiday effort in Idaho Falls. His goal is to connect those who wish to revive their own holiday spirit with those who either can’t afford to give their families a Christmas, or haven’t been able to connect with the holiday hullabaloo either, and need a little extra hope.
On Dec. 5, a group of 20 East Idaho residents donated a fully decorated Christmas tree to an Idaho Falls family, and Christmas presents to a single mom. After video of the “elves” singing carols and visiting with the families made it to Facebook, “Clandestine Kringle” generated buzz online, and he was inundated with requests.
At this point, Kringle said, he is humbled by the need. What he took on as a small personal project to revive a few people’s holiday spirit has turned into a massive undertaking. Since Dec. 5, Kringle has gotten requests from dozens of people. One was from a woman whose entire collection of Christmas gifts was stolen from her car. Another was from a pair of sisters who asked to trade their Christmas for a gift for their mom, who had only asked for a prayer.
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Recipients are only chosen if they haven’t already received help from other local resources, such as Toys for Tots, the St. Vincent de Paul Christmas basket program or The Salvation Army. Most of these organizations started accepting applications in October or November, but have since filled all their slots.
The Salvation Army selected around 800 families to receive gifts for children, and food for the family, but it’s no longer taking applications.
“I think it’s great,” said Ariel Jackson, Salvation Army director of social services, of the Clandestine Kringle effort. “We’ve seen a few things like this pop up on Facebook, and we think it’s great, because we can’t catch everyone.”
Besides requests for gifts or clothing for kids, Kringle says he’s also had simpler requests, such as a little cash to keep the heat or electricity on. To meet needs like this, Kringle has decided to set up a committee of “elves” to handle funds, since he wants full transparency and as much contact between donors and recipients as possible. Donations can be made at the Idaho Falls Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center, 1050 Memorial Drive, or through the Clandestine Kringle Facebook page.
McKayla Matlack, an “elf” with the initial group, said one family’s situation made her flashback to a time in her life when she and her family had little.
“It was so much like what I came from,” she said.
In getting the chance to meet the family in person and share a meaningful, magical moment, Matlack said she and the other elves “gained a great deal.”
Kelly Smith and her husband, Greg, moved with their six children to Idaho Falls earlier this year. A retired North Dakota state trooper, Greg has helped Clandestine Kringle by filling in as Santa on deliveries.
“This has been the best thing for my husband, who didn’t always get to see the best in people,” Kelly said. “Being in law enforcement is not an easy job. It has been so nice to do something good like this when we first got out here.”
He loves the different way people look at him when he’s Santa.
Kelly Smith, whose husband helps out Clandestine Kringle by filling in as Santa
Kelly said the experience has been valuable for her children, too.
“It’s been amazing to be able to tell the kids, ‘Santa’s got a mission for us. Santa needs us to go do this today.’ ”
The Smiths’ daughter, Jillian, 14, has also volunteered as an elf several times.
“One of my favorite things was after a delivery,” Kelly said. “I don’t even think we were back to our car yet, and my daughter was already saying, ‘This feels so good. Do we have to wait for Santa to do something?’
“She can’t wait to do the next nice thing. This is Christmas.”