Portland police officers will begin distributing hundreds of dollars to people in need this week after the City Council voted Monday evening to accept an anonymous donation of $5,000 from a family in Falmouth.

Councilors accepted the Secret Santa donation on an emergency basis, which means that police officers can begin handing out the cash immediately, just three days before the Christmas holiday. The family that donated the money did not want to be identified, but the city earmarked the cash as a Secret Santa giveaway.

City Manager Jon Jennings told the council that the police department has done Secret Santa giveaways in the past and enjoys experiencing the goodwill it generates. No one from the police department spoke at the council’s virtual meeting and there was no explanation as to how the funds would be distributed “to benefit those in need.”

The man who started the Secret Santa holiday giveaways in the greater Portland area confirmed Monday night that he did not make the $5,000 donation to the city of Portland. That Secret Santa, who has remained anonymous and was contacted by email, said the tradition is now being carried on by a local radio station – WJBQ/97.9 FM.

“I retired and moved south a few years ago, but have continued to give 30 envelopes a year – totaling $3,000 – to the Q morning crew to hand out for us this time of year, to keep Secret Santa Portland efforts alive,” he said in an email. He credited WJBQ radio personality Lori Voornas with carrying on the tradition for the past six years.

Voornas said the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to hand out $100 bills this year, but she was able to do so by using a long-handled grabber to hand the money to people. Voornas and her crew went to the Oxford area, Lewiston, Auburn, to locations in Greater Portland as well as Biddeford.

Secret Santa Portland started handing out crisp, $100 bills to people in need around 2008. Over the years he gave away thousands of dollars.

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