BENNINGTON — During the holiday season, people tend to spread cheer by performing a random act of kindness. Lacy, a single mother of two kids, is thankful for a particular act of kindness when a community member replaced a double stroller after hers was stolen from her porch last week.
"I was furious when I found that it wasn't there when we went to take our usual Saturday walk," Lacy said. "I worked two overnights to afford it. I was livid."
The brand new stroller was anonymously gifted to the mother by a community member who wishes to remain nameless, and for this purpose, is referred to as secret Santa.
"Good comes out of everything. That person clearly needed it (a stroller) as well, but didn't have friends to reach out for help," secret Santa told his colleague Andrea Malinowski.
Malinowski is the independent owner of Optionz Health and Fitness in Bennington (160 Benmont Ave) and attempted to spread awareness of the stolen stroller in hopes to gain donations for Lacy. This is when the secret Santa notified Malinowski of the spontaneous purchase.
"I felt so guilty buying the stroller in the first place with it being so close to Christmas," Lacy said. "The kids just got too big and I can't carry them anymore, so I knew I had to buy it. Once it was stolen, I couldn't even think about pulling more overnights to buy another."
This isn't the first time the secret Santa performed a random act of kindness. The anonymous benefactor also raised two children and understands the hardships of people who are less fortunate.
"Unfortunately in the world there are not enough good deeds done for people who need it," secret Santa said. "I've felt blessed in my life and wanted to pay it forward for someone in need. I do also feel that we can't be upset or angry at the person who stole the stroller. Who needs a double stroller other than someone who needs one? Who knows what the situation was?"
Malinowski has Lacy in her Zumba (a fitness class with various styles of Latin American dancing) class and was saddened to hear the news. Lacy works two jobs to make ends meet and Malinowski couldn't see her put in extra hours all over again to repurchase the stroller.
"I've had Lacy in class for about a year," Malinowski said. "I tried to use public outreach through my business to gain awareness. Her and the secret Santa have no connection whatsoever."
"I did explain to my kids about how we got the stroller," Lacy said. "They picked a name off the tree for a child they want to buy a Christmas gift for to continue this act of kindness."
A secret Santa gift exchange constitutes as a popular holiday game where a group of people (co-workers, friends, family) pick names out of a hat and secretly purchases a gift for that person. When labeling the gift, only the receiver's name goes on the package. To create your own gift exchange event, visit secretsanta.com.
"In this society, we need to step forward and do what we can," secret Santa said. "Humankind is good, and we are good people. In such a negative environment, it can really go far. One person tells five people and five people tell five more. I hope that by telling this mother's story can stimulate someone else to do what I did."