116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
FAIRFAX — For hundreds of children in the Corridor, one Fairfax couple is taking “secret Santa” to another level.
Tucked away in their nondescript home, the North Pole is closer than you think for hundreds of families. There, Amy and Greg Stewart work hard to keep the spirit of Christmas alive for kids.
Now in its second year, their operation has grown substantially. Last year, they packaged about 140 gift bags for children across the area. This year, their effort has grown to 252.
While there are a sizable number of toy drives to fill wish lists and make Christmas merry for children in need, The Stewarts’ goal is a little different: keeping the magic of Santa Claus alive for children.
“Personally, it’s satisfying for us because we’ve always given back. I can’t imagine not giving back,” said Amy. “That’s what we do. That’s what we’ve done for years and years.”
For Amy’s family, Christmas was always a grand affair with Santa at the center of the joy renewed every winter for children. With the passing of her parents in 2017 and 2021, the Stewarts want to make sure every child can have the same feeling they were privileged to have growing up.
“You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have happiness, you don’t have anything,” Amy’s father used to say. “That’s what it’s really about,” she added.
You don’t have to be a Santa Claus when Christmas comes around. But if you want to help Amy and Greg Stewart keep the magic of Santa alive for children across the Corridor, donations are always welcomed.
Donations can be sent: via Venmo to @fairfaxlittlefreelibraries or via PayPal to email@example.com.
To get in touch: Email Amy Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (319) 846-6280.
Find more information: on the effort’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FairfaxLFL
By filling out a letter and drawing a picture to Santa, children send in applications with what’s on their wish list, what they need most this year and how they’ve been good.
Some draw up lists of desires from their wildest imaginations, requesting things like ice cream trucks, “$100,” or “the biggest gas-powered monster truck you can buy.” Last year’s wish lists requested all the hottest trending toys for kids, fidget spinners, and sensory toys. Lists serve as valuable market research to help Amy shop for the next year’s gifts.
Other applications offer touching insights into the kindness of children on the nice list. One 9-year-old boy asked for anything “to help more people” for Christmas. This year, the only thing he had on his wish list was “love from all.”
For 2022, the most popular requests are socks, clothes and water bottles — a marked departure from last year’s wish lists. Community donations funding the effort are down from last year, too.
“I think people are probably struggling,” Amy said.
Children applying to Santa are only promised a book and a letter from Kriss Kringle. Each bag contains a “Nice List certificate,” a treat box and reindeer food kits made of oatmeal, as well as glitter for Santa’s transportation.
The rest, opened on Christmas Day, is a surprise.
Now retired from 10 years of selling on eBay, Amy has repurposed skills from her former job to be one of Santa’s helpers year-round. Rooms in the Stewarts’ home are filled with candy, art supplies, books, socks and much more, sourced from clearance sales, overstock merchandise auctions and requests for donations from clothing companies and book publishers.
With about $30 to $50 spent on each kid, children from 3 months to about 12 years old are as surprised as the parents picking up the bags.
“For everything else (other than books), they have no idea,” Amy said. “The videos I have of people coming to the door are funny. They’re like, ‘What — it’s all this?’”
But anyone who knows the Stewarts likely isn’t surprised by the generosity. The new effort grows out of another hobby they’ve taken up in retirement — the Fairfax Little Free Libraries placed around town, which are restocked every week to spark a love for reading in children.
With no grandchildren of their own yet, they hope their legacy remembers them not necessarily for how much stuff they gave away, but how they gave back to their community.
“It’s always been our mission to help and give when we can,” Amy said. “It’s in our DNA.”
Comments: (319) 398-8340; email@example.com