If we’re lucky, most of us remember that one special person from our school days who made us feel that we truly mattered: the English teacher who lifted up every child’s voice to be heard and acknowledged; the math teacher who made sure no student making a real effort failed on his watch; the coach who meted out compassion as well as discipline; the principal who established a food pantry to help alleviate her most vulnerable students’ food insecurities.
Indianapolis preschool director Renee Dixon is a shining example of this breed of exemplary educators. In the months leading up to Christmas, Dixon took it upon herself to make sure that all 50 children who attend Lynhurst Baptist Church Preschool would be assured a visit from Santa.
To make it happen, Dixon took on a weekend job, logging in hour upon hour driving Uber and Lyft passengers to their various destinations. It’s not the first time she’s done it, but this year, she also made sure she was maintaining proper COVID-19 protocol the entire time.
Dixon’s motivation was simple: Having grown up as the child of a single-parent, low-income family, she knew firsthand what it felt like to go without. With many already struggling, she knew that 2020’s pandemic meant many parents would be paying bills rather than purchasing presents.
“So many of our families don’t have money to get Christmas presents this year. Some parents have lost their jobs, others have had their wages cut back,” Dixon told The Washington Post. “A lot of them already come from low-income families and are below the poverty line.”
Eva Cheung, who works with Dixon’s husband, volunteered time and money to help Dixon shop. The two took Target by storm. “…We went down the aisles, throwing gifts in the cart. It was pure joy,” Cheung said. “She was so gracious and thankful, and she told me about what she has been through.
“You read about people like Renee, but when you are finally able to connect with somebody like that and help fulfill their vision, it’s an amazing feeling.”
All told, Dixon not only raised enough money to gift her students with presents, and had enough left over to get something for their siblings and Christmas bonuses for her staff as well.
For Dixon, the spirit of giving has always been its own reward but she did share what she’d been doing with passengers—who recorded their inspirational conversation—and in the way of the modern world, one thing led to another. The local story went national and donations began pouring in.
But when a little bird told Pat Hurst, general manager of the Andy Mohr Nissan dealership in Avon that the one thing on Dixon’s own wish list was a Nissan Armada with enough room to accommodate her kids and grandchildren, he decided turnabout was more than fair play for this hometown Santa.