Michael Lundy was bracing for a bleak Christmas in Juneau after he lost his wallet and $550 that was to have gone toward rent and his utility bill, he said.
"That's a lot of money when you're not working," said Lundy, who is unemployed.
Then came the phone call this week from the local utility. A representative of Alaska Electric Light and Power Co. told Lundy's wife that an anonymous donor had dropped off a Christmas card for them containing a $700 cashier's check.
"I couldn't have been more happy," Lundy said. "I was thinking about how great it would be if I could do something like that for somebody."
Lundy, 33, is not the only recipient of a secret Santa Claus gift in Alaska's capital who paid it forward for at least two strangers. Actually, make that a secret Ms. Santa.
Beside her gift to Lundy, the woman donated $500 for a single mother's electricity bills. The donor grew up with a single mother when paying such bills could be a challenge, so she wanted to help a single mother with the same bill, said Martha Penrose, a longtime customer service specialist who delivered the good news to the teary-eyed recipients.
Penrose and other locals said this level of caring is not unheard of in Juneau, which has a population of 31,000.
Penrose has seen other bouts of confidential kindness in her 26 years with AEL&P from people who want to pay the utility bill for someone in need. Usually, however, the anonymous givers know the recipients.
Penrose knows Ms. Santa and is respecting her wishes to remain anonymous. The donor wanted to know about people facing hardships and wanted to help a single mother too. Penrose gets a strong sense that these secret gifts are not the first for the woman, who told her she hopes any publicity about them will stir up the Christmas spirit in others.
"She's just appreciative of the blessings in her life and she wants to spread them to other people," Penrose said.
Lundy said he lost the wallet in late November. He ultimately retraced his steps and located it at the local Home Depot but by then all the cash was gone, he said.
To make the December rent, Lundy had to borrow money, he said. His wife, Tracey Lundy, called the utility about the lost cash and promised they would pay the bill as soon as possible. That's how their plight became known.
When Lundy picked up the cashier's check, he brought a basket of candy canes, homemade sugar cookies and other treats for the utility staff.
"I wish we could know whoever it was to thank them in person," Lundy said of his benefactress. "It's good to know there are people this generous."
Christine Culliton can also attest to the benevolence of Juneau residents.
Thirty winter coats and half a dozen toys she planned to donate locally were stolen from Culliton's car early Monday morning.
It wasn't long before people heard about it and rushed to help, nearly doubling the number of coats, which will go to homeless teens in the city, said Culliton, an independent care coordinator who works with the elderly and disabled and also provides support services to the Juneau school district.
The response from organizations and individuals was overwhelming, providing more and better toys than those stolen, along with baby clothes, winter boots, gloves, hats and even 20 turkeys complete with all the fixings.
Culliton said 18 individuals came forward on their own -- and each person wanted to remain anonymous.
"They're all Secret Santas," she said.