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Pay It Forward: Madison Cares Secret Santa

wrapping paper
Todd Kunz
Holiday wrapping paper is used by the rolls with the Madison Cares Secret Santa program.
Madison Cares
Todd Kunz
The Madison Cares Secret Santa program is in its sixth year of providing Christmas to families in need.

REXBURG - Idaho (KXPI) - A local organization is setting out to make a difference this holiday season with your help. Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz stopped by to see their operation within the Madison School District.

Time to Pay It Forward.

"In its early days, when we first started, it was much smaller than it is today," said Rick Croft. Kunz received word that a Secret Santa was headquartered inside the administration building for the Madison School District at 60 E. Main Street in Rexburg, Idaho. In fact, one of the elves, Croft himself, said this is the sixth year for the Secret Santa program. Croft is actually the director. Welcome to Madison Cares.

"We helped 83 families last year. And over the six years that we've done this, that's the most families that we've ever helped. And each year we do our Secret Santa program, we help more and more families. So I'm fully anticipating, as far as need goes, that we'll eclipse that 83 this year and help out even more families," said Croft.

They have a lot of people behind the scenes of this operation. The staff of Madison Cares spearhead the effort and reach out to area businesses and other families to see if they want to adopt a family or place a Giving Tree in their business.

"We have such a giving community here in Rexburg. It just amazes me. We have families always stepping up saying they want to help another family, a family that has the means to do that. They're so kind to just step forward and say that they would love to help out a family. We've even had families in the past say that they want to adopt two families or three families. And I think that just goes to show, you know, the caliber of folks here in our community. I mean they're just very giving. Very supportive," said Croft.

They offer volunteer opportunities for people to come in and wrap presents. This includes students and everyday families.

"I think for students to just have that moment to where they can give back and feel like that they're just doing a nice gesture for someone. It really just kind of warms their heart a little bit," said Croft.

They have six Giving Trees throughout Rexburg and two also at the Madison Cares office on Main Street. Each tag has generic information on it.

"(It) Might say, 13-year-old male, needs a coat. Something like that. And so they just take that and they buy a coat for a 13-year-old male and they bring it back into us and we set that aside for that young man and give that out as part of their Secret Santa," said Croft, describing how the donation process works.

Kunz asked Croft why they do this every year.

"Deep question. We do this because we know that there are families that are having a hard time. And it's just our little piece of something we can do to help some of those families rather than knowing that those families are there and doing nothing," he replied.

Let's do something. Time to Pay It Forward.

"Hi. Sorry to barge in," said a woman coming into the office and walking up to Croft's desk.

"Just one second," replied Croft.

"You're Rick right?" asked the woman.

"I am," Croft replied.

"Rick, I'm Cassey (Leatham). I'm with Mountain America Credit Union," said the woman.

"Oh," replied Croft, wondering what was happening.

"And we're here to award you with a Pay It Forward with $500 for your Secret Santa program," said Leatham.

"Oh my gosh! Look at that. OK. Thank you so much," said Croft, taking the envelope of cash from Leatham.

"Yeah, we just greatly appreciate everything you do for the community and everything you do for kids that are in need of everything from mental health services to Christmas trees and gifts and you do a phenomenal job and we really appreciate it," said Leatham.

"Oh thank you," replied Croft.

"We wanted to help you out a little bit," said Leatham.

"Thank you so much. That is going to help out a lot," said Croft.

"Good. I hope so," said Leatham.

"Gonna go directly to a family or families in need," said Croft, holding up the cash.

"Wonderful. Well good," said Leatham.

"Thank you so much. I appreciate that," said Croft.

"Thank you. Very nice to meet you," said Leatham.

"Yeah. Nice to meet you," replied Croft.

"Yeah, thank you," said Leatham.

"You're welcome," said Croft.

Click here for the link to donate to the Secret Santa program and the form.

Madison Cares is also looking for volunteers. If you would like to volunteer and do some Christmas service by wrapping gifts, call Rick Croft directly at the Madison Cares department of the Madison School District office at 208-359-1256 ext. 3444.

All gifts need to be delivered the district office at 60 West Main no later than Dec. 15 by 4pm. The elves will start sorting and delivering Dec. 16.

"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at todd.kunz@news3now.com

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Todd Kunz

Todd is an anchor for Eyewitness News 3, Local News 8 and Fox 5.

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