This holiday season, 19-year-old Ben Gersh decided to put a Christmas tree out front of his Agua Dulce home, decorated with candy canes and complete with a special surprise under the tree for anyone who needed it.
“I thought it would be nice just bringing a Christmas tree out there and making a few people happy,” Gersh said. “Seeing the smile on people’s faces is what brings me joy.”
Next to the tree, a sign told passersby that the candy canes were free for the taking, while also offering to leave gifts under the tree for anyone who needed one for themselves or for someone else who may need some cheering up this year.
Gersh’s mother, Danielle, then decided to post on social media, letting the community know what was going on out in front of her home.
“My son Ben asked if we could have a real Christmas tree outside this year and put real gifts under it for others,” Danielle’s post read. “I loved his idea, so we did it.”
In less than a week, hundreds of responses came flooding in from both those in need of gifts and those wanting to help.
“We bought some small gifts to start out with, but the weird thing was that actually a lot more people wanted to donate than actually receive gifts,” Gersh added.
The Gershes began leaving the gifts out a few at a time, while other gifts would also appear under the tree from others in the community.
“We started to see different gifts under there that we hadn’t wrapped,” Danielle said.
Gersh, who his mother said has always had a generous heart, said the response was more than he’d ever expected.
“It was amazing because I thought with the small town we are in it wouldn’t get too much traction, or too many people to see it,” Gersh said.
On Christmas Day, all the leftover gifts were left under the tree, as the Gershes celebrated the holiday themselves.
“I thought it was a great, really sweet idea, so it made me really proud of him for doing this for our community and just really happy that he was thinking about others and not just himself, like I would think most teenagers do at this age,” Danielle said.