The late Kern Schwartz was Worthington’s unofficial Secret Santa for years, anonymously giving away cash during the Christmas holiday through the Worthington Police Department. The tradition he started with his wife, Jean, has lived on with support from community members, and will now be a permanent legacy thanks to the Kern’s Christmas Cash Endowment Fund at Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF).
This new fund is one of more than 100 designated funds at SWIF that benefit donors’ specific areas of interest, including schools, historical societies, hospice programs and more.
A news release issued by Southwest Initiative Foundation states that it was 1958 when Kern and Jean moved to Worthington, where Kern began his veterinary practice. Schwartz was a veterinarian for 50 years, first with the Worthington Veterinary Clinic and then with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. After their four kids were school age, Jean taught Title 1 reading and math for 20 years at Central Elementary in Worthington.
As longtime members of American Lutheran Church, the Schwartzes volunteered in many roles at the church and lived out their faith through generous actions and kind words. In 2016, they began giving money to Worthington’s chief of police at Christmastime to hand out to people who needed it -- but they never told anyone else about their donations. Jean passed away in 2016, and the secret came out when Kern died in 2019. The anonymous gifts became well known in the community as Kern’s Christmas Cash, but it was a joint effort between Jean and Kern. After Kern’s death in 2019, community members chipped in to keep Kern’s Christmas Cash going.
Last year, the WPD received $2,600 in donations. It was given away $100 at a time, tucked into Christmas cards handed out to 26 individuals and families in the community. Over the years, the Christmas cash has been used for food, presents, car repairs and many other ways.
Anyone can give to the Kern’s Christmas Cash Endowment Fund at SWIF.