On Saturday morning, a server at a Bangor-area restaurant will unexpectedly receive an extremely generous tip — not just because they did a good job, but because a group of mysterious do-gooders suspect that whoever they give the money to could use it this holiday season. They’re the Bangor Elves, and they’re back for another year of anonymous giving to community members in need.
This Saturday, Dec. 15, dubbed the “Day of Good Deeds,” the Elves will collect all the money from the “Elf Canisters,” put in 13 different businesses in downtown Bangor over the past few weeks. With those funds, they will give back to the community in a variety of ways — from something as simple as giving out Tim Horton’s and Subway gift cards at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, to paying for the groceries of a random customer at an area grocery store, to helping a needy family put food on the table or heat their home.
The Elves this year have been spreading the word via their Facebook page, letting people know where canisters are, and sharing the deeds of other do-gooders nationwide. So far, the Head Elf — who wishes to remain anonymous, like her fellow Elves — said they are on track in 2012 to exceed the past two years of giving.
“It was an unbelievable success last year,” said the Head Elf. “The first year  we raised $1,000, and then last year we raised $3,500. This year, we’re on track to exceed that.”
The Elves will also put up their yearly Giving Tree at Metropolitan Soul, located at 25 Hammond St. in downtown Bangor, starting mid-morning on Saturday; it will stay up at least through Christmas, possibly through the New Year. The tree will be covered in dollar bills, many folded into ornaments, that passers-by can add to, or take from, should they need it.
Their only request is that givers and receivers follow their one simple rule: “If you have a need that’s great, please do not hesitate. We only ask that you take one, so the fun can last for everyone. However, if you are one of the lucky ones, your donation of $1 will be a welcome one. Just attach your dollar to this tree to support your neighbors who are in need.”
The Head Elf said their “Day of Good Deeds” goes beyond their own efforts to help others — they hope it encourages anyone and everyone to do good things. They have a list up on the Facebook page of different suggestions for holiday good deeds, such as shoveling snow for elderly neighbors, sending care packages to soldier or having a hot chocolate stand and donating the proceeds to charity.
“We don’t want it to end with us. We want people to have that kind of day no matter what,” said the Head Elf. “Little things like paying for someone’s coffee in line behind you at Dunkin’ Donuts. Random things you come across. Last year we encountered a gentlemen who had run out of gas. We got his van started, got him filled up, got him coffee and sent him on his way. There’s always a chance to do the right thing.”
For the Elves, it’s not about recognition, since they want to stay anonymous. And it’s not about giving themselves a pat on the back, either. It’s simply about doing the right thing.
“I have everything I need. I have family and food and a home. If you think about our state, we’re so rural, and so cold, and I don’t think about it when I go home and turn up the heat,” said the Head Elf. “You have to help your neighbors, and it makes me sick to think someone doesn’t have enough to eat or is too cold. If we can help that, we’ve done our job.”