A Barre Woman and Her Friends Play Santa for Families in Need | 802 Much | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

News + Opinion » 802 Much

A Barre Woman and Her Friends Play Santa for Families in Need

By

Renita Marshall (left) receiving donated tires from Craig Premont of Vermont Quick Lube and Car Wash - COURTESY OF RENITA MARSHALL
  • Courtesy Of Renita Marshall
  • Renita Marshall (left) receiving donated tires from Craig Premont of Vermont Quick Lube and Car Wash

Renita Marshall was scrolling through Facebook several years ago when a neighbor's post stopped her cold.

"'We might not have a tree or presents, but at least we have each other,'" a woman wrote to her four daughters, according to Marshall. "'And that's what the holidays are all about.'"

It was a call to action for Marshall, who was raised in Section 8 housing in Barre.

"I grew up with a mom who did everything she could but still struggled," Marshall said. "When you believe in Santa, and Santa brings you an orange, it's pretty defeating."

So Marshall rounded up some friends, and they bought a tree, presents for the four daughters and gifts the kids could give their mom. The Good Samaritans also bought a gift card so the family could have a nice Christmas dinner. Marshall, who still lives in Barre, felt like she'd done a good deed and thought that would be the end of it.

"But then the next year, I heard of another family that never would have asked for any help and most likely weren't going to have a very good Christmas — and so I jumped in again," Marshall recalled.

That was about 12 years ago. Marshall has since registered the annual charity drive as a nonprofit, dubbed the Renita Marshall Helping Hands Foundation. She also rounds up donations in the fall so less fortunate kids headed back to school can buy new clothes

Each year around Halloween, according to Marshall, people start nominating families for the coming Christmas. She picks one and starts accepting donations of cash and the actual presents the kids put on their lists.

This year's family is a single mom with three kids. Among the gifts: a set of winter tires and free installation, donated by Vermont Quick Lube and Car Wash of Barre.

"It's overwhelming how much people will give," Marshall said as she began to cry. "It's wonderful. Happy tears!"

The original print version of this article was headlined "Secret Santas"