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Vermonter Hides Cash on Store Shelves to Spread Holiday Cheer

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Hidden dollar - COURTESY OF MELISSA SQUIRES
  • Courtesy Of Melissa Squires
  • Hidden dollar

Melissa Squires knows a thing or two about tough times during the holidays. 

Back in December 2012, the Manchester mom of three learned her father had terminal cancer. Hoping to honor him, she decided to perform "26 acts of kindness," a national movement created that month after the murders of kids and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

She didn't have much but decided to visit a local dollar store and distribute $24 she'd saved. Squires walked down the aisles, "hiding" dollar bills among the merchandise, hoping the money would help someone struggling to buy gifts during the holidays.

"I decided what I did have would make an impact," she said.

Every year since, Squires has done the same, though she's increased the amount of money she hands out and the number of stores she visits. More recently, she started tucking $20 bills into cards and leaving them on windshields in a local Walmart parking lot. Now she and her daughters sometimes hand the envelopes directly to people at the store. 

One woman "eventually found us in another aisle and literally ran down the aisle to hug us and say thank you," Squires said. "That, for me, is huge, and that's why I do what I do."

Squires redoubled her efforts after another tragedy struck last year: Her sister, Hannah Keyes, was found dead in her Winooski apartment. Police say Keyes' fiancé killed her, then died by suicide.

"Hannah very much encouraged my community service, my different activities that I'm involved in — but especially this particular event," Squires said of her grassroots philanthropy. 

A bartender at the American Legion in Arlington, Squires saves her tips for her annual dollar spree. This year was lighter than usual because of coronavirus-related shutdowns, but she still went through with the plan.

"I don't look for accolades — ever," Squires said. "I do appreciate knowing that it has made a difference in people's lives, but I more appreciate knowing that somebody else was inspired to do something similar."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Dollar Thrills"