GREENFIELD — When Barb Geary heard the news, her heart broke.

A family friend, after an unexpected death in the family, worried she couldn’t afford to celebrate the holidays with her grandchildren. There were just too many other expenses.

Geary couldn’t shake the thought of those five children– who’d already lost so much — not even having presents to look forward to this Christmas.

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But the children had a stroke of good luck, she said; Geary happens to be one of Santa’s favorite secret helpers. For five hours, she zipped from store to store, combing the aisles for just the right gifts and grabbing plenty of food for the fridge. Each child, and dozens of others, will have full bellies and presents under the tree come Christmas morning.

Greenfield’s Secret Santa, a local charity that helps underprivileged families at Christmas time, provided toys, clothes and the fixings for Christmas dinner to 12 families throughout Hancock County this year. With the help of a few volunteers, Geary, Secret Santa’s program director, was able to give 32 children Christmas gifts.

Every December for seven years, Secret Santa has striven to help more people than the year before, said assistant director Michelle Kimberlin.

Eager to reach out to as many families as possible, charity organizers decided 2017 would be the first year they’d hold a benefit to raise money.

Geary was able to work her Christmas magic and throw together the party in less than a month, Kimberlin said.

The benefit, held at Heartland Resort, featured live music from a local country band, vendors selling gifts and food, a silent auction and a raffle.

“We were thrilled at all the donations we got,” Kimberlin said. “People were overwhelming us with all the toys that day.”

Children also had the chance to sit on the Jolly Old Elf’s lap and tell him what’s on their Christmas list.

“See, even Santa took time out of his busy schedule and came all the way from the North Pole to help make this event happen,” Kimberlin giggled.

A week after the fundraiser, Geary and Kimberlin got straight to shopping. Armed with wish lists that the families had provided, the ladies began collecting all the gifts the children had requested.

By the end of the shopping spree, they had several trash bags full of dolls, Nerf guns, action figures, posters and more.

As promised, they were also able to provide 10 of the families with a basket of food, Geary said. Their shopping cart was stuffed with plenty of ham, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn and rolls: All the essentials for a Christmas dinner.

Geary brought the goodies to her base of operations: Her daughter’s house. Barb and her daughter, Chasidy, spent the next six hours organizing the donations and wrapping the clothes and toys to prep them for delivery in time for Dec. 25.

“It was a crazy, crazy, crazy Saturday,” Chasidy Geary said with a laugh.

Chasidy Geary is amazed by her mother’s devotion to the cause and was inspired to help out with the charity’s efforts this year.

“She never asked for help ever; she tries to do everything by herself,” Chasidy Geary said. “Sometimes, they just don’t get the gratitude they deserve.”

But all the effort is a pleasure, Barb Geary said. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when they receive their brightly decorated presents makes all the stress worth it.

Having her daughter along for the ride this year was a bonus, Barb Geary added. Making Secret Santa a family get-together for her made the day that much more special.

Kimberlin said she was pleased to see how many children they were able to impact this year thanks to the community’s generous support. The caring hearts in Hancock County are what make Secret Santa possible, she said.

“Every child should have a Christmas,” Kimberlin said. “That’s what’s important. It’s all about the kids.”

Angels Among Us

This holiday season, the Daily Reporter celebrates those community members who it take it upon themselves to bring Christmas cheer to those who need it most.

Holiday help

Secret Santa served 12 Hancock County families this year, but there are still leftover toys and donations available. If you know a family that needs help this holiday season, contact Barb Geary at 317-292-8137.

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Evan Myers is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3228 or emyers@greenfieldreporter.com.