In just a few days, a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit and wearing a white beard will enter a Portland-area thrift store, a soup kitchen, a church or some other place where people gather and start handing out envelopes – each with a crisp $100 bill inside.

It’s time for Portland’s Secret Santa to start making his rounds.

His publicist says Santa – his identity is a closely guarded secret – plans to give away $20,000 this Christmas and is turning to social media for ideas on potential locations that would be appropriate for him to hand out the cash. He tries to target places where he is likely to find people who need money the most.

He never announces when or where he is going to show up.

Last year, Secret Santa, who is a Portland-area businessman, rode a Metro bus that was traveling from Westbrook to Portland when he started handing out $100 bills. Each envelope contains a note that asks the recipients to spend the money to make their own holiday a happier one.

Since 2009, Portland’s Secret Santa has given $80,000 to complete strangers. One year he gave money away at a food bank in Brunswick and another year at a thrift store in Portland.

Attempts to contact Secret Santa were unsuccessful Monday, but Giovanna Moscoso, who represents his publicist – JCPR of Parsipanny, N.J. – said Santa’s schedule should be known within a few days. Of course, where and when he is going to appear is another closely guarded secret.

“Beyond helping our neighbors in need, Secret Santa’s secondary purpose is to spark an interest in others to participate in the spirit of the season,” Santa said in a statement released Monday by JCPR. “We encourage people to give what they can to help people that need a friendly hand and plant a seed of hope in these difficult times for those in desperate circumstances.”

Secret Santa is encouraging the public to contact him by email at [email protected] or on Facebook with ideas for places he can give money away.

Last Christmas, Portland’s Secret Santa also traveled to Aberdeen, N.J., where he handed out $100 bills to people shopping at a Goodwill store. He went to the New Jersey shore because he wanted to target people living in the area that was hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.

Secret Santa started making public appearances in 2009 to help Maine families and individuals in need during the holiday season. His efforts were inspired by Kansas City’s Secret Santa, Larry Stewart, who reportedly gave away more than $1.3 million in $100 bills before his death in 2007.

 

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]