Acclaimed author, James Patterson, surprised some local elementary school children and a Hudson Valley bookstore employee with a holiday gift this week.

The popular author of the Alex Cross series of books which spawned movies such as "Kiss the Girls" and "Along Came a Spider" played the role of Santa Claus on Tuesday, handing out $2 million in holiday "bonuses" to independent bookstore employees and school libraries across the country.

The program is designed to thank local booksellers and libraries for spreading the love of reading. Patterson, who grew up in Newburgh, partnered with Scholastic Reading Club to hand out grants of $1,000 to $10,000 per school. Locally, Berea Elementary School in Montgomery was named as one of the recipients.

In addition to the Orange County school, an independent bookstore employee in Dutchess County is also among the recipients of Patterson's holiday bonus program. The American Booksellers Association reports that Lisa Wright, who works at Oblong Books & Music's Millerton location, was selected as one of this year's winners.

James Patterson personally selected all of the recipients of the holiday bonus program from almost 3,000 nominees. The program is being funded by Patterson's new children books published under "Jimmy Patterson Books."

In 1947 Patterson was born in Newburgh, New York where he lived with his parents until eventually attending Manhattan College. Mentions of Newburgh and the Hudson Valley have appeared in may of Patterson's books.