Secret Santa

Watch This Video
Windows Media


Christmas cheer is hard to find for families struggling to make holidays merry despite economic woes. A stealthy group of volunteers helps fulfill Christmas wishes while preserving the parental pleasure of giving gifts. Heidi Robinson reports.   

 New Items | Additional Stories | Archives


(Winston-Salem, North Carolina)

(Child laughing)

Lucero Zarat, Mother of Two: “It’s hard for everybody…”

…but especially…

Lucero Zarat: “Tickle, tickle…”

…for a young mother of two toddlers, working forty hours a week.

Lucero Zarat: “…then I didn’t have money for food and everything.”

Eighteen-year-old Lucero manages month to month. Her two-year-old can’t understand.

Lucero Zarat: “She wants lights like other people. Trees, too.”

Christmas feels overwhelming.

Lucero Zarat: “Sometimes they want to give their kids presents but they can’t.”

Across town, Santa’s helpers have the matter in hand. They cut, fold and tape to keep Christmas under wraps.

Volunteers: “Oh! We’re secret Santas!”

This would-be workshop is part of Open Arms, a ministry of the United Methodist Church, in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Volunteer: “It makes me feel like an elf.”

Some here have received Christmas help themselves in years past.

LaTonia Woods, Volunteer: “I come because Open Arms opened their arms to me and my family. It’s something to see a child’s eyes and face just glow on Christmas morning.”

Community organizations donate toys.

Volunteer: “It’s not going to last five seconds on Christmas morning.”

Volunteers handle the hand-off.

Vickie Sigmon, Director, Open Arms: “We’re behind the scenes and no one has to know that Open Arms has been the vehicle for getting the presents to them.”

Gifts go out for delivery after dark, so little eyes won’t see the packages…

Volunteer: “Guys, can you get the tree?”

…but families can experience Christmas wonder.

Volunteer: “Merry Christmas!”

Recipient: “It’s the perfect size.”

Volunteer: “We’re straightening the tree up.”

While the first angel is hung inside on the tree, gifts appear outside. And parents can prepare for a magical Christmas morning.


This is the eighth year that Open Arms has distributed packages to families in need. Many of the folks who receive help from the organization also give back to Open Arms, serving as volunteers in the kitchen, child care or community care. Lucero Zarat often cooks for community gatherings at Open Arms. If you would like more information about Open Arms, call 336-724-0850.

Posted: Dec. 17, 2008