Secret SantaBy Shelby R. Farrell


BELVIDERE – One local family brought Santa to Belvidere as a part of their Stateline Secret Santa fundraiser that helps other families have a happy Christmas.

Santa was at the Belvidere Family Video on Saturday, Dec. 19 to take pictures with local children and families and to bring more awareness and donations to Jay’s Stateline Secret Santa food, toy and clothes drive.

Jay Lagerman and Leah Root, his wife, created the Belvidere/Poplar Grove Area Swap and Sell public Facebook group more than five years ago. Lagerman said he wanted to make the group after he saw that a lot of the other Facebook groups for people to sell, buy, ask for help and information, or to even just connect with others were private.

He said the Stateline Secret Santa started in the Swap and Sell group.

“We started years back with the program, running that group,” he said. “It was basically just a food drive. Through that group, we were able to meet up with a lot of people through like pantry extras or things that they have tons of that they don’t need, so they started giving it to me, and we started funneling it out to other people in need that need it.”

For the last three years, he has reached out the people over the internet, as well as receiving help from local businesses, such as Buchanan Street Pub, at 111 Buchanan St. who let them put a collection barrel there. Adding the barrels to various locations in the community increased the fundraising efforts.

Those efforts were beat out this year when Melanie Arvidson volunteered to photograph kids with Santa this year, and Santa volunteered his time as well. Those who ordered photos were encouraged to donate to the fundraiser.

According to Lagerman, 50 families came to take pictures with Santa.Secret Santa 2

Jay’s Stateline Secret Santa provided a meal and gifts for 56 families in 2014. The goal this Christmas is to help between 25 and 50 families.

Lagerman said that through the promotion at the Belvidere Family Video, they were able to raise enough food and gifts for 15 families so far.

“We try to pick up and help out some people that are too late for help elsewhere, or don’t fit the paperwork for elsewhere,” he said.

Root said they get messages on the Facebook pages from more than 300 people asking for help. They try to wade through the requests and pick up to 100 families who can’t find help anywhere else.

“If it’s either their mortgage payment or a Christmas meal, then we can help them,” she said. “We can fill that gap.”

Lagerman said half of the people the fundraiser helps are people who have lost jobs before the holidays, have sick family members and are “in a bad situation, so we’re kind of like that last chance to help you out at Christmas, I guess.”

The family doesn’t stop or start helping others at Christmas time. They collect food for Thanksgiving dinners for families in the area, and Lagerman helps fix bikes at their home during the summer. He said helping other people is just what he does, so he doesn’t mind leaving the barrels up until the end of the month.

“We spent two weeks after Christmas still working on the program last year getting everything to people,” he said. “We don’t start our Christmas until we’re done with the program. My whole family has been doing this with me forever.”

To learn more about the Secret Santa fundraiser, visit:

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