BANGOR, Maine — Folks filled with holiday spirit are popping into Kmart stores all over the country to help out those less fortunate by paying for toys, clothes and other gifts that have been placed on layaway.
The Secret Santas, who first made the news in Grand Rapids, Mich., because of their generosity, prompted numerous other donations across the U.S., and now the “Layaway Angels” have hit the Queen City.
The first Layaway Angel walked into the Hogan Road retail store a week ago, Bruce Donlin, assistant store manager, said Tuesday.
“It was really weird. I had read the internal email that this is happening and then a woman arrived saying she was here to pay for a layaway,” he said. “I showed her where the layaway counter was and she said, ‘Oh, it’s not mine.’”
The woman selected the layaway account of a complete stranger that had toys and children’s clothing and paid a portion of the outstanding bill, the store manager said.
“We’ve had at least four since,” Donlin said. “I’ve been told there may be another one today.”
Layaway plans allow a person to pay for items in small increments over a period of time, he said, noting that Kmart has had such a program for years.
The store manager works with Layaway Angels to match them with an account.
“We have a list of delinquent accounts or [people] who are late on their payments and we work from that,” Donlin said. “We’ve had everything from around $100 to the one last night who paid off” three accounts and put $200 down on the fourth account.
The donors leave a few dollars or pennies on the account to keep them open.
“There are some very generous people out there,” Donlin said. “People are coming in — good citizens — looking to do some good this holiday season.”
The best part is that he and other store managers get to call the recipients and tell them they no longer have a bill. Donlin called a woman Tuesday morning to let her known that her layaway bill had been reduced to $66.
“She was almost in tears,” he said. “She was very excited and asked if she could have until Friday to pay it. I said, ‘Sure.’ We always work with people.”
The Layaway Angels have told him and other store managers that they are making the donations because “they feel fortunate enough to be able to do something,” Donlin said.
Walmart stores nationwide have also seen their share of Layaway Angels, but it was unclear Tuesday whether that included any in the Bangor area. A call to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
The Layaway Angels are not the only generous people in the Bangor area. A secret group of locals who call themselves the Bangor Elves also are spreading good cheer and helping out local needy. They do such things as distribute rolls of quarters at the laundromat or leave a $100 tip for a struggling waitress.
The generosity of a few has buoyed the spirits of employees at the Bangor Kmart, according to Donlin.
They are “pretty excited about it,” he said. “It has changed the mood in the store — it gives everybody a good feeling. There is just no downside to this. It’s a great feeling.”