Christmas came early for those less fortunate in Columbus, Ohio, looking to have a tree this holiday season.
An anonymous do-gooder on Monday paid for all the Christmas trees in Saint Mary School's lot in order to help spread holiday cheer among those who need it most.
"They came in to the principal’s office and said they wanted to buy the rest of the trees in the lot and they were free for whoever was in need," the school's secretary, Mikey Wesley, told ABC News.
“As far as my time here, nothing like this has been done before,” Principal Kayla Walton added.
Wesley, who was working in the tree lot at the time, said there were "about 25 to 30" trees left when the donor showed up. Neither she nor Walton know the amount of money the donor paid in total, but Walton said the school's trees typically cost around $40 to $50 dollars each.
“It brought a lot of joy to my heart that this person didn’t want to be recognized. But it also brought so much hope,” said Walton. “We often talk about Christmas spirit and I think this focused in on the beauty and joy in the season of giving, and the simplicity of it, as well. A lot of great things can happen in this world and this was just so simple.”
Within 24 hours of Walton posting the generous news on Saint Mary School's Facebook page, the trees had disappeared.
“They were all gone in 24 hours but we didn’t want this to end because it was so good,” she explained, adding, “If you’re in a position to buy a tree from any other tree farm or lot, you can bring it to our lot and we’re going to leave the stands up for anyone to drop off and pick up.”
"They were gone by 11 a.m. the next morning," said Wesley. "After 11 a.m. we were still getting phone call after phone call saying, ‘Do you still have trees?’ We were sold out. They had all been given away."
Walton said the success of the pay-it-forward mentality the anonymous donor sparked “means a lot to people.”
“A lot of people are struggling with things more than meets the eye,” she said. “I think this is a beautiful representation of the goodness of humanity. We are a catholic school and a catholic church and it’s been really important to me to show others Christ’s love in a time where consumerism can run rampant. We’re taking it back to the basics of goodness and generosity and hope.”
The principal said the trees will be completely accessible to everyone, and no worker even needs to be present to pick them up.
“If you are in need, we don’t require that you show us anything. Just pick up a tree,” she said. “We also just found out that the tree farm is willing to bring a truckload tomorrow evening at 6:00 p.m. We are so excited.”
“Lots and lots of people have been calling," Wesley added. "Lots and lots of phone calls have been coming in with people saying, ‘I can’t afford it this year. I haven’t worked in 6 months.’ Or ‘I’m disabled.’ Two of our staff even delivered a tree down the street to someone who couldn’t pick it up themselves.”
As for continuing this tradition next year?
“For sure,” said Walton. “Obviously the Christmas tree sale happens every year, but who knows. Maybe we’ll have a weekend of free trees and let anyone take a free tree next year and see what our lord has in store for us.”