Kindness found online over the holidays

Gifts and hugs are exchanged at a toy drive and fundraiser thrown by "A Place at the Table" in Asbury Park, N.J. on Dec. 20, 2012. Kristen Driscoll Photography

As millions of people across the country gear up for the holiday season, there are those who are trying to brighten the day of strangers through acts of kindness online.

Jennifer Kaufman came to attention when she helped save Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of people who were displaced by Superstorm Sandy. Kaufman set up a Facebook page called "A Place at the Table" that connected people who wanted to donate Thanksgiving dinners to families who were unable to cook for the holiday.

Now Kaufman is back with a secret Santa program that she's hoping will extend through the holiday season.

"We've had an overwhelming response to the secret santa program," Kaufman told CBS News. So far, about 150 families have completed matches and 450 people have volunteered to play secret Santa.

All of the matches are coordinated using Facebook and Google Documents. Those who are looking for assistance can sign up by registering through the Facebook page. Once a request is received, the data is entered into a document and then Kaufman matches them with donors that have similar budgets or locations.

"If it wasn't for Facebook none of this would be possible," Kaufman said. "We have a website, but it's mainly for those who don't have a Facebook account."

A Place at the Table isn't the only service online that is hoping to serve those most affected by Sandy.

Secret Sandy offers a similar service through its website. Those in need write in requests and their letters are matched with donors who pledge to deliver the gifts. The service garnered much attention after Chelsea Clinton tweeted it to over 44,000 followers on Twitter.

After a trip to the Rockaways in Queens, N.Y., Secret Sandy co-founders Joy Huang and Kimberley Berdy wanted to do more to help victims of the storm.

"We wanted to figure something out for Christmas and we came up with the idea for Sandy," Huang told CBS News.

But neither Kaufman nor Huang wants to limit their services to the holidays. As long as people are willing to donate and volunteer, both organizations say they'd like to figure out a way to continue beyond the end of the year.

"The human connection is tremendous," Huang said. "Someone they don't know is thinking of them."

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.