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Secret Santas in Erie County brighten holidays

Emil Whitis • Dec 30, 2012 at 5:12 AM

Two women from two different towns got a little help this year from anonymous sources. Now they’re trying to figure out who to thank. 

Alice Ashburn, a Perkins Township newspaper carrier, opened up her mailbox on Dec. 6 and pulled out a letter with no return address. 

She opened it and read. 

“Hi Alice, I know you have had difficult times in your life over the last several years,” the letter begins. “You are incredibly strong and your hard work has not gone unnoticed. Even though we can not control what happens to us, we can control how we respond. Just remember that everything happens for a reason.” 

The letter was signed “Santa.” 

Tucked behind the letter was a $500 cashier’s check from PNC bank with no name. 

Ashburn was skeptical. She’d heard plenty of stories about people getting bad checks in the mail. 

But when Ashburn asked bank tellers they told her it was good. 

She broke down and cried. 

“I was shocked that someone thought of me,” Ashburn said. “I want to know who it is so I can thank them.” 

She wrote a letter of her own. 

“Thank you so very much to the kind, caring person who surprised me with an anonymous donation this holiday season,” Ashburn wrote. “I...was overwhelmed by the unsolicited act of generosity. It is great to know that there are still caring people out there.” 

Kristine Snyder, a retired nurse living in Castalia, lost her daughter Dawn Gaspar to cancer in October. Since then she’s taken custody of her 10-year-old granddaughter Faith Gaspar. 

Dawn didn’t have life insurance so the funeral left Snyder broke. 

As Christmas approached Snyder had about $3 in her checking account — not even enough to buy a tree. 

Then, about a week before Christmas she got a call from her bank. Employees there said they needed to talk about her bank account so she drove in. 

At the bank, tellers told Snyder someone had deposited $100 in her account. 

The next day she got another call. This time it was a $50 gift card to Walmart. 

On Christmas Eve there was a third call.

Employees handed over two gift cards totaling $90, two bags stuffed with presents, several sacks of groceries and a small tin. They told her to be especially careful with the tin. 

When Snyder got home she sat down on the couch and opened it. Inside was $1,000 in cash. 

“I started crying and yelling,” she said. “If anybody had been in my house they’d have thought I was nuts.” 

Snyder called it a true “Christmas miracle.” 

“You see this stuff all the time in books and movies but I’ve always had bad luck,” she said. “It’s still hard not having (Dawn) here but being able to give my granddaughter a Christmas makes it a little better.” 

Snyder said she doesn’t know anybody with that kind of money. 

“I would really like to be able to thank them in person,” she said. “I would like to whole-heartedly thank them with everything in my being.”

Both Ashburn and Snyder said they used the bulk of the money to catch up on bills. 

Ashburn is the mother of Aaron Richardson a former Bowling Green State University football player who died in 2004 during practice.

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