Last weekend, during the most frenzied holiday shopping stretch of the year, a Minnesota couple anonymously dropped a check into a Salvation Army red kettle. The amount? An incredible $500,000. The donors said they wished to honor one of their fathers, a World War I vet, and to show gratitude for the Salvation Army Donut Lassies who pass out free donuts and coffee to soldiers. "You get to a point in life where it's time to take care of others, the way you were taken care of," the donors told a local news station.
Perform a quick search online and you'll find dozens upon dozens of heartwarming donations like this one. While the holidays tend to bring out the largest charitable gifts, there are many examples of giving back that cover all manner of assistance for those in need. Some involve money, while others may offer a tender note and a simple gift. Below are five touching donations from anonymous donors that will warm your soul.
The Layaway Angels
Last December at a Wal-Mart in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, an individual walked in and asked to pay off all the customer layaway accounts. Known only as "Santa B," the man ended up handing over a cashier's check for more than $50,000. "He just wanted to bring Christmas cheer to everyone. He was in and out, kind of like Santa," store manager Steve Myers told CNBC.
Santa B wasn't the only "Layaway Angel" spreading good cheer. Two Toys "R" Us stores in Massachusetts last holiday season also received anonymous donations totaling $20,000 each to pay down layaway balances. There's even a nonprofit called "Pay Away the Layaway" that helps people anonymously donate to help kids receive everything from presents to back-to-school supplies.
The Vintage Wedding Dress
In June, a man stopped by St. Gemma’s Hospice Charity Shop in England and left behind a beautiful vintage wedding dress. When an employee later looked over the gown, she discovered an attached note with a heartbreaking message.
"I wish any lady who takes this dress to have a life with her loved one 56 years like I did," it read. "[They were] happy years. I was a lucky man to marry a lady like mine.”
The story went viral online, with the dress later sold at auction for more than $3,000. Eventually, St. Gemma's was able to track down the 85-year-old donor, who was deeply touched by the worldwide reaction to his gift. "[He] was delighted to hear the dress is living on in his late wife’s memory,” a rep for the organization told Buzzfeed.
The Charity Refrigerator
The public charity fridge setup by an anonymous man in Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Mohamed al-Arefe/Twitter)
In an effort to help people struggling to find food on a daily basis, an anonymous man in Saudi Arabia decided to install a refrigerator on the street in front of his house. He then encouraged his neighbors to help fill the fridge with any spare food they had. What followed were not only leftovers, but also freshly cooked dishes prepared specifically to help the needy.
The idea became so popular that copycat efforts from Brussels to Qatar have since sprung up around the world.
Philadelphia's 'Johnny Appleseed'
Thanks to an anonymous donor this week, the city of Philadelphia will soon be greener — and sweeter. The $100,000 donation will benefit the Philadelphia Orchard Project, a nonprofit that supports 58 neighborhood orchards. The 1,000 fruit trees, planted in formerly vacant lots, school yards, and other urban settings, not only help educate and connect people with nature, but also serve to make fresh food directly available to low-income communities.
The $100,000 donation will be spread out over five years, with an aim to use the funds for tools, outreach and for planting six new orchards each year.
The 500 Anonymous Heroes for One Sick Little Girl
When doctors told Michael and Johanne Wagner of Ontario, Canada, that their adopted twin girls from Vietnam were suffering from a rare liver disease, the couple immediately offered to be transplant donors. Michael ended up being a match, but since doctors could only remove a portion of his liver for a transplant, they told him he would have to choose which girl would receive the life-saving procedure.
Forced with this awful decision, the Wagners decided to let doctors choose based on medical reasons. When the story of their plight went viral, more than 500 people offered to become donors for the other little girl. Eventually, 70 were screened and one anonymous man was chosen. “He was incredibly brave to come forward and give an incredible gift — they put their life on the line for someone they never met and changed our lives forever,” Michael Wagner told reporters.
Both girls have recovered and are expected to live normal lives. “We’re looking forward to a long life with these girls and finally to have them back home with us,” he added.