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Port Orange Observer Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 11 months ago

Foundation 37 surprises families at Walmart by paying for their gifts

This was the third year the organization has held the Walmart Christmas Surprise.
by: Nichole Osinski Community Editor

For two nights in a row, members of Foundation 37 headed to Walmart and surprised shoppers by buying the gifts they were purchasing. 

The unannounced purchases were a part of the organization's Walmart Christmas Surprise, which has been going on for three years. 

This year, the organization brought in $1,500, plus another $1,500 that was matched by a local business, to help 20 families with their purchases Dec. 18 and 19. 

Julia Tucci, Maria Mills-Benat, Renee Bergin, Tony Tucci, Julie Stiltner and Joanna Tucci. Photo by courtesy of Foundation 37

"Every single person is so grateful no matter their circumstances," Foundation 37 President and co-founder Maria Mills-Benat said. 

The first year the group was able to help around eight families. Since then, the impact has grown beyond the store walls. 

Mills-Benat recalls helping a young woman with her purchases during one Walmart surprise. About six months later the woman was her waitress at the restaurant where Mills-Benat was eating. 

Maria Mills-Benat surprises a shopper at Walmart. Photo courtesy of Foundation 37

The two began talking, and Mills-Benat found out the woman had started telling other people about what had been done for her. Those people had then decided to go out and give back to others in the same way. 

According to Mills-Benat, she and the Foundation 37 board try to target people who are buying toys and last-minute shopping. Once, they were able to help with the purchases of a woman who hadn't payed her electric bill that month so she could buy Christmas gifts for her child. 

"When you're choosing the people, you don't know their circumstances," Mills-Benat said. "It feels so good to know you've helped them, and it warms my heart to see the smiles on their faces."


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