Secret Families, a nonprofit that provides gifts to families in need, is looking for volunteers and monetary donations to prepare for the shopping and delivery day of the gifts on Dec. 3.

Secret Families was started in 2004 by Al and Chris Holdren, who provided two families a tree and presents.

Volunteers who participate in Secret Families shop at Meijer, wrap presents at Toyota of Muncie and then deliver the gifts or trees to the families. It is $550 to sponsor a family and monetary donations are accepted throughout the year. Families are selected through principals at local schools instead of an application process.

To donate, volunteer or learn more about Secret Families, visit secretfamilies.org. 

Melissa Daniels, customer and public relations manager at Toyota of Muncie, designed the dealership almost seven years ago with the concept of hosting the Secret Families events in mind.

“We can clear out the entire showroom and greet the public and have lots of people in the building. Secret Families was already in mind for this building before we even built it, so we’ve kind of built it around doing events like this,” Daniels said. “It’s grown more than we expected.”

In 2015, Secret Families delivered a decorated Christmas tree, presents, a $50 Meijer gift card and a Bible to 394 families.

Secret Families’ goal is to serve 400 to 500 families this year. Wasson Nursery donates all its Christmas trees and Dalton & Co. Janitorial Supply donates items that can’t be bought with food stamps.

“It’s just a great way to experience Christmas and have some perspective in this world, and it’s a great way to feel like you are really helping, so while there are many great charities that I like to support, this is very much the most hands-on charity that I participate in each year,” Daniels said. “It’s nice to hear the stories, go deliver to families and meet the families and see that you really are making a difference for people … it’s just kind of the spirit of the season is right there.”

Daniels calls the day “the most exhilarating and the most exhausting day of the year,” which ends with a donated dinner from MCL Cafeteria. Her husband and daughter open the dealership early in the morning and watch the quiet before the volunteers come. Cars are still sold on that day from the dealership, but staff members go on deliveries as well.

“[Deliveries] can be really sad. I’ve cried [just because of] people wanting to share their story and how they didn’t have any hope, so it’s a good cry … it can also just be pure joy, little kiddos jumping up and down and [they’re] so excited, giving you hugs,” Daniels said. “It can just be a real sweet, humbling experience so it’s all over the map, but it’s always positive, it’s always uplifting. The goal of Secret Families is to spread hope and cheer in the Christmas season, and I definitely feel that we do that.”