Sometimes all it takes is one random act of kindness to make someone's holiday season infinitely brighter.
Around the country, anonymous men and women find ways big and small to help out people in need. These "Secret Santas" and "Guardian Angels" spend money and time on helping others and ask for nothing in return.
Click through for stories of generous secret santas spreading holiday cheer.
|Secret Santa Helps Sandy Victims|
A wealthy Missouri man giving away $100,000 for the holidays traveled to New York and New Jersey to distribute hundred dollar bills to people who suffered from superstorm Sandy.
The Secret Santa refused to give his name, but surprised residents, shoppers and volunteers in the two states with money in hand. He sported a red beret with "elf" stitched on the back in green.
"Are you serious?" asked one surprised shopper when he handed her a $100 bill.
"I'm serious. Merry Christmas," he said. "See if you can't do a little bit more shopping today. Buy something a little bit more than what you would have bought before, all right? Just kind of pass the kindness on down the road."
The woman hugged the generous benefactor and cried into his shoulder.
The man was trailed by New York and New Jersey police officers and FBI agents. Some sported the same "elf" berets, according to the Associated Press.
"The money is not the point at all," he told the AP during a stop in Staten Island. "It's about the random acts of kindness. I'm just setting an example, and if 10 percent of the people who see me emulate what I'm doing, anybody can be a Secret Santa."
|Anonymous Donor Pays for Family's Layaway Gifts|
A North Carolina family of five will be having a merry Christmas, thanks to a kind act from an anonymous donor.
When Cameron Longenecker of Grantsboro, N.C., went to Walmart to pay a layaway bill, he was shocked to find that the $389.15 bill had been paid in full.
The family had been trying to decide which bills they would skip this month in order to pay for the Christmas gifts for their three children.
"All I could do was cry walking through the store," Tami Longenecker told ABC News' New Bern affiliate WCTI-TV.
The grateful family called Walmart to try to find out who had paid the bill in order to thank them, but the store did not know.
"I just want to say thank you so much. They've given my kids one of the best Christmases they could have," Tami Longenecker said.
|'Guardian Angel' Gives North Carolina Family Cash|
A North Carolina woman was at Ingles grocery store with her husband and two children when an older gentleman in a thin red windbreaker walked up to her and grabbed her hand.
"[I] looked down and he had put a hundred dollar bill in my hand," Megan Hicks told ABC News' Asheville affiliate WLOS-TV. "He said, 'I just want to tell you, God bless you and merry Christmas.'"
Hicks tried to tell the man she couldn't accept the money, but he turned around and left the store.
"I wanted to thank him. I was so stunned I didn't know what to say at the time," she said. "The way he smiled at me, he was a great man. I just stood there crying. I didn't know what to do."
Hicks called her mother to tell her what happened and her mother told her the man was her guardian angel. The family had been struggling financially.
"Times are tough for everyone right now and it just, it really helped out," Hicks said. "I can't explain it, the look in his eyes. Something about him...it was great."
|Annual Secret Santas Leaves Big Donations in Salvation Army Kettles|
A string of secret Santas in Tennessee have made a tradition of brightening the holiday season with generous donations to the Salvation Army.
For the past five or six years, secret Santas have deposited wads of $100 bills into Salvation Army red kettles.
"We have the best secret Santas," Kimberly Kyriakidis George, director of marketing and development for the Greater Chattanooga Salvation Army, told ABCNews.com.
On Dec. 4, an anonymous donor dropped 48 $100 bills in the kettle outside of a K-Mart in Fort Oglethorpe. The week before, a wad of 37 $100 bills were dropped into the same kettle. Three other wads have also been dropped in the kettle.
The bundle of 48 bills had a note attached that said, "Please give and give generously. May the peace of Christ be with you. SS"
"We never know when they're going to be, we never know where they're going to be and we hate to expect them now, but we're surprised every year and the surprise is just as sweet," George said.
George said that the donations have placed the Salvation Army chapter at nearly the 70 percent mark of this year's red kettle goal.
She wants to extend "a big thank you" to the anonymous benefactors.
"It's exciting. To me, it's the ultimate example of generosity because it's anonymous," she said. "Not only is it anonymous, they're not wanting any kind of tax credit on it. For somebody to be that generous and not even want any kind of credit for it is amazing to me."
"Secret Santa fever is going strong in the Tennessee Valley," George said with a laugh.
|Good Samaritan Pays Off 35 Layaway Bills in Mississippi|
Thirty-five Mississippi families were treated to a quite a surprise when they found out that their Walmart layaways had been paid off by a good samaritan.
"Thank you, Jesus, because I didn't know how I was going to do it," Likedria Kemp told ABC News' South Mississippi affiliate WLOX. "I went on a whim and I [put items on layaway] hoping I could pay it off on time, so it was just a big, big surprise for me and it was such a blessing."
Kemp is a mother of two young girls who broke into tears and started screaming when she found out the bill had been paid off by an anonymous female donor.
"It's a feeling like no other to know they will have that satisfaction and can share things that other kids normally do," she said.
Diane Young was also emotional about finding out that the gifts she had hoped to buy for her 3-year-old grandson were taken care of.
"To do this for someone she has never met, no words can even describe it," Young told WLOX. "I was just blown away. It just came at a really good time for me in my life right now."
Both women were so touched by the kindness that it motivated them to pay it forward. Young paid for a Spiderman bike for another little boy and Kemp was also feeling the contagious generosity.
"I decided I might put something else on someone else's layaway [with] the money that I did save," she said.
The women also wanted to express their gratitude to the secret Santa.
"Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart and my family's," Young said. "For you to take the time and pay someone else's layaway without even meeting the person, you are an angel. And I wish I could hug you and tell you thank you and God bless."