updated 12/25/2004 1:42:49 PM ET 2004-12-25T18:42:49

Residents of Samaritan House didn’t know what to expect when the bearded, middle-aged man parked his sport utility vehicle in front of the downtown homeless shelter Christmas Eve.

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The man walked into the building, pulled out a thick roll of $100 bills and began passing them out to each of the approximately 300 residents.

When he was finished, he had given out $35,000.

“It was like seeing Santa Claus and God all at once,” said William Chengelis, who has lived at the shelter since November. “You hear about stuff like that but you don’t think you’ll be there when it happens.”

As a crowd gathered, the man said he had once been homeless and knew what it was like to be in need. He did not identify himself and said only that he lived in Denver and had also distributed money at a Las Vegas shelter.

Possibly the man’s biggest single donation was $5,000 to a family of six to find housing. Louis Quezada, Tessa Wittner and their four children had been living with Quezada’s parents but were thrown out after an argument. They had been in the shelter several days.

“He asked if he gave us the money, would we get a house with it,” said Quezeda, 23. “We said yes.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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