Jefferson Award Winners: The Berman Family - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Jefferson Award Winners: The Berman Family


Eau Claire (WQOW)- Spreading holiday cheer can be as simple as a shared smile. For many years an Eau Claire family has gone above and beyond to share the spirit of the season.  The Bermans are the secret santas behind the non-profit Pay It Forward Chippewa Valley.

"Twas nightfall along Brackett Street and in this quaint little house

The scissors were snapping, too many presents to count! 

The boxes were stacked in the basement with care, 

Because the Berman's know, December 25th soon will be here."

It's not your traditional Christmas poem, but neither is this family's version of the holiday. "This is all she knows," says Kaitlyn Berman's dad, John. "So when she talks about Christmas to her friends she says 'Yeah, I'm going to Christmas and I get to give away stuff."

For fourteen years, longer than daughter Kaitlyn has been alive, the Bermans have celebrated Christmas around a very large table. Arriving before dawn the Pay It Forward family takes over the kitchen at The Community Table and sets out a feast. "Breakfast alone is a lot for us! We don't usually do choices," says Executive Director Rachel Keniston. "They come and there's pancakes, french toast, bacon, eggs, sausage... the whole works!"

"It truly is the people that keep me going," chimes in Shannon Berman. "The people that I get to help. The people that our family gets to help."

And the Bermans come to the Community Table bearing a trailer full of gifts that could rival Saint Nick's sleigh. "One of the fun parts is loading the trailers to see how much we actually have for them," adds Kaitlyn Berman.  "Because down where we store it, it doesn't look like that much. But once you get it out it looks like a lot!"

As John likes to say, Christmas is all about Christmas morning and that means presents. The family makes sure that each child has at least one really cool gift to tear the wrapping paper off of. But John reminds us, "Mom and dad need something too." On Christmas morning they spend time with each person who visits to find out where they're staying, what they're lacking and what they might need. "We'll find something that they don't already have but could really use," says John. 

Hundreds of people come to join in the meal and the merriment. You don't have to be in need to attend, but many are. 

"John and Shannon have been doing this for all these years and nobody knows," says Mike Fischer who nominated the Bermans for the Jefferson Award. "I think it makes it obvious that they're not doing it for the fame or the notoriety. They're very humble people themselves. They're not out there blowing their own horn, so someone had to do it for them."

The time and effort the Bermans pour into this yearly event is amazing. But the numbers are astounding, too.  "Everybody included, the money that comes in the donations, things like that, including the food... Oh boy," says John. "On one of our biggest years I bet you we are in the $15,000 to $20,000 range."

The bulk of that comes out of the family's pocket. "This is what we do for Christmas," John simply says. 

"You can do this. It's very doable. All you need is a group of good people and it will blossom on its own," adds Shannon. "The rewards that you get in return are just phenomenal."

Aside from gifts, clothing, school supplies, toys and everyday essentials the Bermans also send each person home with a bag of non-perishable food items. And ahead of this Christmas they're still looking for a few more food donations. If you'd like to help out call (715) 828-4374.

To learn more about Pay It Forward Chippewa Valley visit their Facebook page. 





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