After East Atlanta woman surprises homeless man with gifts, he pays it forward

ATLANTA — UPDATE: Due to the amount of Channel 2 Action News viewers that have asked to help Rick, Suzanne has made a GoFundMe page to help get him on his feet.

ORIGINAL STORY: An East Atlanta woman was upset that she wouldn't be home for the holidays and was preparing for the worst -- but what she didn't know is that it would be one of the best Christmases yet.

Knowing that it would be hard to not be with family over the holidays, Suzanne Podzemny decided to plan for what she thought would be a rough day.

“For the first time, I didn’t make it home for Christmas,” Podzemny said.

However, that feeling of sadness soon changed when Podzemny got a call from an unknown number.

Podzemny told Channel 2's Kimberly Richardson she got a voicemail on Christmas Eve from her homeless friend, Rick.

Rick was calling Podzemny to wish her a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year -- and to let her know he loved her.

“Hey Suzanne, it’s Rick. I love you and called to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I love you. You can call me back at this number. This is my phone. I love you. Bye.”


Podzemny’s new plan on how she would spend Christmas Day? Invite Rick over for dinner.

“He was so excited because I told him we were having steak,” Podzemny laughed.

Then, Podzemny started to ask herself, “What is Christmas without presents?”

Podzemny posted a message on Nextdoor asking for donations for Rick -- and neighbors all around East Atlanta decided to pitch in and help.

The response was unbelievable.

Gifts came pouring in and were items anywhere from wrapping paper, stocking stuffers, clothing, socks and new shoes.

Podzemny told Rick she would pick him up around 6 p.m. on Christmas.

“I told Rick he could take a shower and that I would do his laundry while we ate dinner,” Podzemny said.

During dinner, Podzemny revealed to Rick that she had a few gifts for him.

“He started crying,” Podzemny said. Rick had not yet seen the donations yet.

After opening a few gifts, Podzemny told Rick that she had one more present for him, but wasn't able to wrap it because of how bulky is was.

Podzemny took Rick into the room where all the donations were and his response was priceless.

“He started doing what I knew he would do,” Podzemny said. Rick started planning what to give to others he knew were in need.

So, with the help of Podzemny’s girlfriend, Sarah Ruiz, they set off to deliver a few gifts.

However, Podzemny said no gift was greater than the gift Rick gave her.

"It's been the most meaningful Christmas yet,"  Podzemny said. "I am so lucky that Sarah and I met Rick. He tells us all the time how much it means to him that we saw him. He's not invisible -- he's a human."

And to everyone who gifted things to Rick, he has a message for you.

“My name is Rick. And to all of you who gave Suzanne gifts to give me -- I love y’all and thank y’all. And may God bless y’all. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."