THE GIFT OF GIVING …
Across the United States, secret Santa’s and layaway Angles have warmed the hearts of many with their gift of giving during the Christmas season. From Massachusetts to Florida, from Pennsylvania to California and all places in this great land, Christmas is a time of giving in honor of our most precious gift of all. To be honest, I did not even know there was a charitable organization called Pay Away the Layaway. org that accepts donations to do just that. However, I think like other individuals, I would rather personally go to the store myself and do it. The thanks from those who benefited from these kind gifts is so special. Especially during the current times that so many are experiencing tough times, even though we have those in power telling us that the economy is good. As one of the mother’s who received the layaway gift said, “when you live week to week, its hard”. Yes it is and that makes what these Layaway angels do very special.
Under layaway, customers purchase items, but the store holds onto the physical merchandise as they pay it off in bits over a few weeks. For those with uncertain cash flows and limited access to credit, it’s a structured way to save up for the holidays. But even this system can be a stretch too far to make those final payments, coming due at many stores at the end of this week.
Unpaid, those gifts risk going back on the shelves instead of under the tree — unless a miracle happens. Enter the “Layaway Santa.”
Brockton, Mass ‘Layaway angel’ pays off thousands for families to put presents under their tree for their children.
The Brockton Enterprise reported that the unidentified man went to the customer service desk about noon Monday with $3,000 in cash and handed it over to pay off the layaway bills of other customers, said Jim Doucette, loss prevention lead detective at Kmart at 2001 Main St.
“He had $3,000 and he wanted to apply the money to delinquent layaways that would otherwise be cancelled for nonpayment,” Doucette said. “He specifically requested that we apply them to layaways containing a lot of toys, basically Christmas gifts.”
In acts of holiday generosity, anonymous benefactors around the country have been going to retailers and paying off the balances for customers who had items on layaway.
At a Walmart in Mechanicsburg, one man recently paid $50,000 to retire the layaway balances for 100 customers, and in Lancaster County, “layaway angels” have shown up at Kmart, Walmart and Toys R Us stores.
“Layaway” angels have descended in Panama City. It’s not a K-Mart initiative, but a Christmas tradition born out of kindness.
K-Mart assistant manager Larry Riley says this has been going on for a few years, but this year, people have been more generous than ever before, paying off layaways as high as $5,000.
As families in north Texas cross off their own Christmas lists, so called “layaway angels” are helping put gifts under the Christmas tree for strangers.
“It’s passing it on,” says Jim Butcher, the president of Eagle Land Services Inc.
For a third year in a row, Butcher has made the trip to a Toys R Us in Hurst and paid the layaway tabs for dozens of families.
Butcher says growing up, he personally experienced this kind of generosity from his community.
Near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, an anonymous donor, who goes by the pseudonym Santa B, wrote out a check for $50,000 to pay the remaining balances on layaways for families in need at one Walmart store there.
It’s so common that the layaway registers at Walmart actually have a “Good Samaritan” button. It basically allows associates to randomly select layaway customers buying only toys and helps facilitate acts of kindness.
Karlisa Ducan always told her three children that God allows Santa Claus to manifest in limitless forms, giving her 4-year-old, 8-year-old and 14-year-old a reason to believe.
On Wednesday, Ducan thanked God aloud as she hugged the four Santas standing near the Kmart layaway counter, who she said made Christmas a bit brighter by paying off her $500 debt to the store.
“Santa is involved in everything,” said Ducan, a 34-year-old mother from Warren. “Each Christmas is big, but this one will be the most blessed. This is the best feeling in the world.”
Vennie Bowden remembers plenty of layaway Christmases – those holidays when gifts were chosen early and then painstakingly paid off in the weeks leading up to the big day.
“I was raised penny to penny,” Bowden said.
So, layaway was an obvious choice for Bowden when she was looking for a way to help out during the holidays.
After launching a successful business – Arrow Fire Support Services – this year with her husband David, Bowden said, “I’ve been very blessed.”
Just check out these five amazing stories of layaway generosity:
1. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: An anonymous man put over 100 customers in the holiday spirit Monday, spending $50,000 at a Walmart on toys and electronics they had on reserve. The man did not reveal his real name, telling the store to just call him Santa B. “We’ve had layaway angels come but the extent was $5,000. This is much higher,” store manager Steve Myers told ABC News, adding that it was “pretty cool” that the guy chose that store out of the thousands of Walmarts.
2. Lake City, Florida: The Walmart in Pennsylvania was just one of four stores that were visited by Layaway angels Monday. An anonymous patron visiting the Lake City Walmart Supercenter also did his part to share holiday cheer, paying over $63,000 and closing at least 300 accounts for customers. “It was an outstanding thing,” store manager Gary Taylor told ABC News. “It’s good to know there are still some good Samaritans in the world.” A third patron cashed in a $51,000 check on all layaway accounts in Chiefland, Florida. It is unknown if the two patrons are the same person. The fourth store was in Kansas City, Missouri and received $10,000 on layaway items, according to a Walmart spokesperson.
3. Auburn, Massachusetts: Most layaway angels go unnamed, choosing to remain anonymous. But Cathy O’Grady is one who became big talk Dec. 12 when she walked into a Toys R Us in Auburn and paid $19,600 in layaway items, having spent $2,000 earlier that day at a Toys R Us in Framingham. O’Grady is the owner of Sofia’s Angels, an organization that specializes in helping all people, especially those in need. She says her mother, who passed away from breast cancer 17 years ago and for whom the organization is named after, inspired her to be generous. “She was always a giver, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to carry on her legacy and her memory,” O’Grady told ABC News. “It took me long enough to figure out what I wanted to do.”
4. Johnson City, Tennessee: Toys R Us, like Walmart, is one of the most frequent stores that layaway angels visited. One store in Johnson City recently had one who covered 52 layaway counts, racking up $5,000 in total, according to one benefactor Monte Riffey, who had about $900 in layaway at the Toys R Us. “It was very heart-warming,” she told ABC News. “Of course, I was very shocked that someone would do that for someone they didn’t even know. I was very shocked and appreciative.”
5. Charleston, West Virginia: Most layaway angels make their good gestures anonymously but we won’t hold that against Jed Smith, who spent over $1,000 on layaway items for people as they lined up at the register in a local Kmart, according to CBS-affiliate, WPEC CBS 12. “I’m Santa Claus today,” he said to one shopper, Leann Heater, in a quote published by WPEC CBS 12. “I’m going to cover this for you.” Smith did not return calls to ABC News for comment.