Pepper Milligan had been gone just two hours when she returned home and discovered her four-foot decorative lawn Santa had been stolen. Her holiday spirit had also been robbed.
The decoration had been a bright spot for her family in an otherwise very dim holiday season.
Milligan and her husband Sean were still grieving after their baby, who they planned to name Serenity, miscarried. Plus, money was tight and buying presents for their other five children would be difficult. Milligan was no longer in the mood to celebrate Christmas.
“It was spirit-killing,” Milligan said.
She needed to vent, and found a neighborhood watch Facebook page as her method of catharsis. Milligan posted a long message telling her story and warning others of another burglary in the area. She also wanted thieves to realize that sometimes they take more than just material possessions.
“When I wrote it I wasn’t asking for anything. It was nothing intended that way," Milligan said. "I was sincerely just at a breaking point.”
Her fellow Gilroy residents responded with more than over one hundred likes. A group secretly organized a “Christmas For Pepper page” and just two days later, at least 20 people showed up and assembled a decorative lawn Santa over six-feet tall. A top-hat wearing snowman came along as well. So did bags full of presents for Milligan’s children.
“To see our neighborhood come together, that’s what I feel the Christmas spirit is all about,” said Analeise Guild, who helped organize the community donation for the Milligan family. “Literally people who I’ve never met were coming together and donating things.”
Now the Milligan lawn is covered in decorations, and overflowing with gifts under the tree.
“We feel very gracious and very humbled,” said Sean Milligan. “It proves there are good people in the world and they’ve shown up on my doorstep.”
Pepper Milligan says her neighbors’ giving spirit has helped restore her faith in humanity as well.
“It was such a huge gesture,” Milligan said. “It was life-changing.”