Anonymous donors pay off Kmart layaway accounts

I thought it was about time that we ran some good news. Stories like this are more common than people think. America is special because American’s are special. This story will remind you of what is really important in life.

For the last few years, I have dropped off Cash at area Churches and asked the pastor to give it to whoever needs it most. I never place limits on it, as much as I see the need to give Christmas to kids, I would be equally happy if it helped pay a bill or buy a nice meal. The idea is simple, help someone and just look for the opportunity to perform a random act of kindness.

Margery A. Beck, 15 Dec 2011, (AP)
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The young father stood in line at the Kmart layaway counter, wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots. With him were three small children.

-My normal dress is dirty clothes and worn-out boots but don’t be sending old Ronin any gifts. I do encourage everyone to help someone. Pay a bill for them, hire someone to do a chore (or do it yourself) a chore they cannot afford or just do not have the time to do.

He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn’t be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.

“She told him, ‘No, I’m paying for it,'” recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis. “He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke. I told him it wasn’t, and that she was going to pay for him. And he just busted out in tears.”

At Kmart stores across the country, Santa seems to be getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers’ layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn’t afford, especially toys and children’s clothes set aside by impoverished parents.

Before she left the store Tuesday evening, the Indianapolis woman in her mid-40s had paid the layaway orders for as many as 50 people. On the way out, she handed out $50 bills and paid for two carts of toys for a woman in line at the cash register.

“She was doing it in the memory of her husband who had just died, and she said she wasn’t going to be able to spend it and wanted to make people happy with it,” Deppe said. The woman did not identify herself and only asked people to “remember Ben,” an apparent reference to her husband.

-Rest in Peace Ben, your wife is one special woman and her love for you has helped encourage entire families. God Bless her.

Deepe, who said she’s worked in retail for 40 years, had never seen anything like it.
“It was like an angel fell out of the sky and appeared in our store,” she said.
Most of the donors have done their giving secretly.

Dona Bremser, an Omaha nurse, was at work when a Kmart employee called to tell her that someone had paid off the $70 balance of her layaway account, which held nearly $200 in toys for her 4-year-old son.

-I do not know many people with the resources to do this sort of thing but some of you can do other smaller random acts of kindness. Help someone this weekend. If you cannot pay off a bill, leave a Christmas card with just kind words on their door. Call on a elderly neighbor and bring a nice pie with you. People need encouragement, especially in this economy.

“I was speechless,” Bremser said. “It made me believe in Christmas again.”
Dozens of other customers have received similar calls in Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Montana.

The benefactors generally ask to help families who are squirreling away items for young children. They often pay a portion of the balance, usually all but a few dollars or cents so the layaway order stays in the store’s system.

The phenomenon seems to have begun in Michigan before spreading, Kmart executives said.

“It is honestly being driven by people wanting to do a good deed at this time of the year,” said Salima Yala, Kmart’s division vice president for layaway.

The good Samaritans seem to be visiting mainly Kmart stores, though a Wal-Mart spokesman said a few of his stores in Joplin, Mo., and Chicago have also seen some layaway accounts paid off.

Kmart representatives say they did nothing to instigate the secret Santas or spread word of the generosity. But it’s happening as the company struggles to compete with chains such as Wal-Mart and Target.

-I don’t have a Kmart close to me but I’ll make a short trip soon, I have some shopping to do.

Kmart may be the focus of layaway generosity, Yala said, because it is one of the few large discount stores that has offered layaway year-round for about four decades.

The sad memories of layaways lost prompted at least one good Samaritan to pay off the accounts of five people at an Omaha Kmart, said Karl Graff, the store’s assistant manager.
“She told me that when she was younger, her mom used to set up things on layaway at Kmart, but they rarely were able to pay them off because they just didn’t have the money for it,” Graff said.

He called a woman who had been helped, “and she broke down in tears on the phone with me. She wasn’t sure she was going to be able to pay off their layaway and was afraid their kids weren’t going to have anything for Christmas.”

“You know, 50 bucks may not sound like a lot, but I tell you what, at the right time, it may as well be a million dollars for some people,” Graff said.

-I can remember times when even old Ronin thought $50 was an unreachable goal. Let’s keep this going, watch for an opportunity this week to help a family near you. Cash is king but you can also pay for a meal as you are walking out of a local diner. Pay the bill for a young family or an elderly couple and just tell the staff to hand them a paid bill with “Merry Christmas” written on it.

Graff’s store alone has seen about a dozen layaway accounts paid off in the last 10 days, with the donors paying $50 to $250 on each account.

“To be honest, in retail, it’s easy to get cynical about the holidays, because you’re kind of grinding it out when everybody else is having family time,” Graff said. “It’s really encouraging to see this side of Christmas again.”

Lori Stearnes of Omaha also benefited from the generosity of a stranger who paid all but $58 of her $250 layaway bill for toys for her four youngest grandchildren.

Stearnes said she and her husband live paycheck to paycheck, but she plans to use the money she was saving for the toys to help pay for someone else’s layaway.

In Missoula, Mont., a man spent more than $1,200 to pay down the balances of six customers whose layaway orders were about to be returned to a Kmart store’s inventory because of late payments.

Store employees reached one beneficiary on her cellphone at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where her son was being treated for an undisclosed illness.

“She was yelling at the nurses, ‘We’re going to have Christmas after all!'” store manager Josine Murrin said.

A Kmart in Plainfield Township, Mich., called Roberta Carter last week to let her know a man had paid all but 40 cents of her $60 layaway.

Carter, a mother of eight from Grand Rapids, Mich., said she cried upon hearing the news. She and her family have been struggling as she seeks a full-time job.

“My kids will have clothes for Christmas,” she said.

Angie Torres, a stay-at-home mother of four children under the age of 8, was in the Indianapolis Kmart on Tuesday to make a payment on her layaway bill when she learned the woman next to her was paying off her account.

“I started to cry. I couldn’t believe it,” said Torres, who doubted she would have been able to pay off the balance. “I was in disbelief. I hugged her and gave her a kiss.”

-This weekend go out and commit a random act of kindness. Post your ideas for all of us to enjoy. This is not a contest, you do not have to tell us what it cost or who you helped. Just let us know that you helped someone.

Explore posts in the same categories: Christians, Good News, Hope, human interest, United States

9 Comments on “Anonymous donors pay off Kmart layaway accounts”

  1. Big Frank Says:

    Yes there is a Santa Claus.

  2. Gonzo Says:

    I heard about this on the way to work via the radio.
    An interesting side note is that apparently she tried to do this at Walmart, but was kicked out of the store. Go figure.

  3. CavMom Says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post. Love for our fellow man is what Christmas is all about. Time to pay it forward…

  4. tgusa Says:

    Giving directly lets you avoid the predominantly leftist oriented charity cartel. Help defund the leftists, avoid Big Charity.

    • Big Frank Says:

      How true, some years a very famous multi million dollar national ‘charity’ was rocked by a scandal, which included embezzlement of funds, ultra high salaries, clandestine apartments, and ‘girlfriends’ on the side or sly. Charities like any other institutions should be audited frequently to avoid leading those top executives into temptation. I was once a trustee along with two others for a large organization, we had the books audited quarterly, an effective way of insuring integrity.

  5. PB-in-AL Says:

    People are always asking…

    Well, there’s some of your “Christ” in Christmas!


  6. It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy.
    I have read this post and if I could I want to suggest you few interesting things or
    advice. Maybe you can write next articles
    referring to this article. I desire to read even more things about it!

  7. Lloyd Says:

    I like it when people get together and share thoughts. Great website,
    continue the good work!


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