A regular shopper at the in New Lenox got an unexpected Christmas this year: A complete stranger offered to pay her $285 layaway bill so she could give gifts to her grandchildren after she recently realized she couldn't afford to do it.
Kmart shoppers across the country have been the beneficiaries of a group of anonymous donors called “layaway angels,” in which people pay off the layaway bills, mostly for children’s items, for shoppers who otherwise couldn’t afford the gifts they hoped to give this holiday season.
The trend . Patch first reported on layaway angels on December 16, and in recent days, stories of anonymous layaway payoffs have been reported in Patch towns from South Carolina to and Wisconsin to
At the New Lenox Kmart, assistant store manager Alicia Cirar said she first experienced this kindness last Saturday, Dec. 17, when a man came into the store and paid off five layaway bills totaling $900.
One of those people was the regular shopper, who Cirar said puts items on layaway every year, 2011 being no different. But just after picking out gifts for her grandchildren, this woman’s husband lost his job. She lives with her grandchildren, as well as her daughter, a single mom.
“To make ends meet they knew that they could not afford to pay for the layaway this year and decided to let it go,” Cirar said. “It was emotional to see someone would do that for a stranger.”
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, when more people start to do their holiday shopping, the number of items on layaway triples, Cirar said. That makes the people who don’t have to worry about these bills all the more grateful because they’re able to provide a Christmas. The regular shopper whose $285 bill was paid off wrote a letter to Cirar to share with her layaway angel.
The angels have come into the New Lenox location for different reasons. One man heard about the movement on the news and offered to pay the layaway for a woman in front of him in line. A woman said she gives to a charity every year and likes to know that the money will go back into the community. Another woman said she recently got through some hard times, and though she didn’t have much to give wanted to help out.
Through Dec. 20, nine angels have visited the New Lenox store and footed the bill for about $1,600 of layaway items. The Kmart employees get to experience the joy felt by the people helped by these angels, and Cirar said it puts the holiday in a different perspective.
Last Saturday, she was dragging her feet and dreading a 14-hour work day, as many of her days are around this time. Then a man came to the store to pay off others’ bills.
“It definitely makes you examine the season a little closer,” she said. “When you have something like this, one little thing can cure all the bad. It just brings joy.”
If you want to contribute, go to the Kmart in New Lenox and say you want to be a layaway angel. Cirar is compiling a list of items on layaway, primarily kids toys and clothing, and has various price points from which the donors can choose. Cirar said current layaway bills at the store range from about $40 to as much as $400.
And follow the links to read more Patch coverage about layaway angels on and across the country.