At Kmart stores across the country, “layaway angels” are bringing a bit of holiday cheer by paying off the layaway accounts of strangers. Now they’ve hit the Inland Northwest.
Coeur d’Alene Kmart manager Lauren Larson said between 20 and 30 angels have visited the store there, including one who paid $1,000.
“I’m not entirely sure why, other than they want to do something nice for other people,” Larson said.
The donations at this Kmart started an hour after “Good Morning America” aired a segment about the phenomenon, he said.
One 58-year-old layaway angel, who wanted to remain anonymous, visited the Coeur d’Alene location Tuesday with $40 in hand. She asked the associate to put the money toward two layaways with toys.
“It just seems like the thing to do,” the woman said. “I figure if you’re putting toys on layaway, you’re having a hard year. I want to help the little ones.”
Diana Reid, who works at the layaway counter at the Kmart on East Sprague Avenue in Spokane, said about 20 people paid off layaway accounts Monday alone. About 100 have contributed since the holiday season began, she said.
Reid said the holiday angels usually pay layaways of toys or delinquent accounts for items that are slated to be reshelved.
“They just want to spread the holiday cheer,” Reid said. “They want the kids to get toys.”
Gail Wyroski, who works at the layaway counter at the Coeur d’Alene Kmart, said people have cried when they learn their layaways were paid off.
“A lot of people are making comments that it didn’t feel like Christmas this year,” Wyroski said.
Larson said some of the donations have come from older customers. He said he thinks for older couples, buying presents for each other is not as important as it once was. Larson recalled a story of one couple who donated: When they paid, the husband turned to his wife and asked how she felt. The wife smiled.
“I could tell it met some kind of an inner need she needed to take care of,” he said.
Wyroski took the order from the Tuesday layaway angel. With Christmas coming this weekend, most items have been picked up. The layaway storage is almost empty, but she found two that fit the request the woman had made, applying $20 to each.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Wyroski said. “It makes you feel good that people are willing to do this.”