Local credit union, Safeway spread holiday cheer — $50 at a time

One of Santa’s helpers handed out gift cards at a Southeast D.C. supermarket on Thursday. (WTOP/John Domen)

The beard was natural, though more gray than white, which didn’t make Chris Martin the most convincing Santa ever.

But Martin, who works in IT at the United States Senate Federal Credit Union, came through with a great Santa impression when it mattered the most — giving out gifts.

Walking the aisles and standing outside of a Safeway at the corner of Alabama Avenue and Good Hope Road in Southeast D.C., Martin was there with others to give out $50 gift cards that could be used there, or anywhere else.

So when a woman named Joyce walked in wearing a green sweater and red hat, both with the words “naughty” on them, he did a double take.

“Uh-oh, are you on the naughty list?” he had to ask. “It says ‘naughty.'”

Once she explained it was “just a hat and a shirt” and that she “really was nice” this year, he relented, not bothering to double-check his list.

“For being nice then, how about I give you a $50 gift card?” he asked. It was a question that left her shocked.

“Oh my goodness, thank you,” she responded.

Afterward, she admitted: “I’ve been good, I’ve been good mainly to others. I need to be better to myself.”

Another woman, quieter than Joyce, said she hoped to see Santa next year, too.

“We’re mindful that with the pandemic and with coronavirus just wreaking havoc on the economy, there are people that just can’t buy food, and you see it all across the country, you see it all across the region,” said Timothy Anderson, the president and CEO of the United States Senate Federal Credit Union, which sponsored the giveaway.

“We just want to make sure that we’re able to help people eat this Christmas.”

In all, the credit union was giving away $20,000 worth of gift cards, $50 at a time, at this Safeway and at one in Northeast D.C.

“If we can just help just anyone that has a need this Christmas of putting food on the table, then that’s what we want to do,” said Anderson.

One of the customers who shared that philosophy was Arrealia Gavins, who lives in Baltimore but works at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. She said she’s lost both her mother and sister to COVID-19. But in the moment, she was cheered up by the giveaway, and planned to pay it forward on her way to work.

“I’m going to find somebody along the way and just pass it on,” she said as she walked out with her $50 gift card. “I’ve been very fortunate even in the middle of adversity to be able to work and continue to have my career blossoming. I just want to be able to give to others.

“You have to keep it going, sharing the blessing,” she added.

“Paying it forward is important to me, because I think that everything in this universe is reciprocal, and so I think the more we give to others, the more we get blessed.”

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