Secret Santa delivers poems and $250 gift cards to hundreds of Edmonton homes

Christmas came early to Edmonton residents who found "Secret Santa" envelopes containing a poem championing hope through dark times and a $250 Walmart gift card delivered to their doorsteps on Christmas Eve morning.

Anonymous gift-giver says 400 envelopes were handed out

Envelopes marked 'Secret Santa' and delivered anonymously to homes in west Edmonton contained a poem championing hope in dark times and a $250 gift card for Walmart. (Submitted by Christina Ignacio-Deines)

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Elisha Tennant found an envelope marked "Secret Santa" on the front steps of her Edmonton home. Inside was a poem championing hope through dark times — and a $250 Walmart gift card.

When she found the gift, Tennant started to cry. 

"It was just very heartwarming and touching that someone would do that," she said Friday.

But she wasn't the only recipient — Tennant said the white envelopes also adorned the steps of adjoining townhouses in her North Glenora neighbourhood. Many other Edmontonians reported receiving the same anonymous gifts, with some taking to social media to express their surprise and delight. 

For Tennant, who was laid off during the pandemic and has a mother on a fixed income, the surprise gift certificate makes a big difference in getting her family through the holidays. She took it grocery shopping that same day.

"To have something like this, I mean, that's a month of groceries for us," she said.

Christina Ignacio-Deines and her family found one of the envelopes on their doorstep in Edmonton's Alberta Avenue neighbourhood. (Submitted by Christina Ignacio-Deines)

'Pass the baton' 

The poem also ended with some instructions for those who received the gift but might not need it: "Whatever it is that you set out to do, remember to just believe in you. Don't need this? Please pass the baton, for that is the way hope carries on." 

Christina Ignacio-Deines, who lives in Edmonton's Alberta Avenue neighbourhood, also got one of the anonymous letters. 

Although she's been out-of-work as an event planner, she said her husband's income means the family is getting by, so she followed the instructions of the letter to "pass the baton."

"My first thought was 'What charity are we going to support?' " she said.

Ignacio-Deines dropped off the gift card at the non-profit Bissell Centre, which aims to help those struggling with poverty. 

She was told her donation would be used to purchase socks and undergarments for people staying at the shelter space set up in the Edmonton Convention Centre.

Secret Santa asks to stay secret 

Ignacio-Deines said the neighbourhood is trying to figure out who their mysterious benefactor might be, checking door cameras and trading information online.

But the mystery of it all appeals to her.

"I like the idea that there is somebody out there who just wanted to be generous and to share what they had with other people, regardless of those other peoples' means."

CBC News reached out to an email listed at the bottom of the letters.

In an emailed response, the secret Santa said they had dropped off 400 of the gift cards, primarily in the west end and Alberta Avenue neighbourhoods. 

But the gift-giver asked to remain anonymous.

I hope the gifts gave people a sense that the world is good and there is a brighter future not far ahead.- Secret Santa

"I decided to do it because I know that lots of people have had a really tough year and I had the means to help out," the secret Santa wrote in the email.

"I hope the gifts gave people a sense that the world is good and there is a brighter future not far ahead."