(CNN) – When a Maryland real estate company handed out red envelopes to employees during the annual holiday party on Saturday, no one knew what to expect.
So when the 198 employees of St. John Properties received surprise bonuses averaging $50,000, it was a holiday miracle most didn’t see coming. All the bonuses totaled around $10 million.
“When I opened the envelope, I was in total disbelief,” Stephanie Ridgway, an assistant project manager at the company, told CNN.
“I couldn’t believe I saw what I saw. I don’t even have words to properly describe how I felt, it was just amazing and incredible. I’m still in shock. It’s definitely life changing.”
St. John Properties President Lawrence Maykrantz told CNN the company had reached a major goal of developing 20 million square feet in real estate, doubling the amount in 14 years.
“We wanted to do something to thank all our employees for helping us achieve our goal, and we wanted to do something big,” Maykrantz told CNN.
Each employee received money based on the amount of years they have been working at the company. The smallest amount, $100, was for an employee who was just hired and hadn’t even started at the company yet. The largest bonus was $270,000.
“It was truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Everyone was all overwhelmed with emotions. They were screaming, crying, laughing, hugging,” Maykrantz said.
“People were lining up to hug us, and kiss us, and shake our hands and they told us story after story of what they’re going to use their bonuses for. People are now debt free, they’re paying off their credit cards, their mortgages, their tuition and student loans.”
The 37-year-old Ridgway — a 14-year employee — said she will use the bonus for her children’s college funds.
“I’m looking into some possible investments and some house upgrades, but the majority of the money is going into my children’s future,” Ridgway said.
For the first time in company history, St. John Properties, which has eight different branches, flew in all their out-of-state employees and their guests and covered all airfare and hotel costs for the party.
“We are so proud of our employees. They are the foundation and the reason behind the success of our company. And we wanted a big way to thank them and I think we were successful in doing that,” Maykrantz said.