Some needy people are getting a nice Christmas surprise this year: anonymous "layaway angels" have been donating money to pay off layaway accounts in stores from all around the country:
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Dianna Gee says layaway angels are visiting its stores "from coast to coast." At a Haleyville, Ala., Walmart, a man donated $11,000 to pay the accounts of 75 families.
The phenomenon apparently began three weeks ago when a woman paid off three layaway charges at a Grand Rapids, Mich., Kmart. Media coverage prompted a slew of copycat givers.
Generosity can be contagious, says Lisa Dietlin, a Chicago philanthropic adviser. After years of austerity, people are "knocking the economy in the eye and deciding not to be stingy this year," she says.
Last Friday, a man walked into a Hayward, Calif., Kmart with $10,000 cash to pay down layaway accounts. He used $9,800 on 63 accounts and dropped the remaining $200 in a Salvation Army kettle as he left the store.
Assistant store manager Darlene Beverly called some of the recipients. "Some scream, some holler — with joy, of course," she says. "They cry big time."