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'Layaway Santas' Are Spreading Cheer At Kmarts; Wal-Marts Too

In Omaha: The Bremser family had its $70 layaway balance paid for by a stranger. "I was speechless," Dona Bremser says. "It made me believe in Christmas again."
Dave Weaver
In Omaha: The Bremser family had its $70 layaway balance paid for by a stranger. "I was speechless," Dona Bremser says. "It made me believe in Christmas again."

We need a heart-warming story and this fits the bill:

"At Kmart stores across the country," The Associated Press writes, "Santa is 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."

We're seeing stories about this happening in:

-- Michigan. "Strangers have paid off more than 30 layaway bills at a Kmart near Grand Rapids," Michigan Public Radio reported earlier this week.

-- Indiana. "An anonymous woman made a special trip to the Indianapolis Super Kmart and paid off the outstanding layaway balances of several customers, according to ABC affiliate station WRTV-TV6."

-- South Carolina. " 'Probably two weeks ago, we started seeing people coming in asking to randomly pay off strangers' layaways,' Terry Northcutt, manager of the Mount Pleasant Kmart, told Mount Pleasant Patch. It adds that "so far, eight shoppers have come in to pay off stranger's layaways, and as similar stories across the country are reported, Northcutt expects to see more."

-- Nebraska. "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," the AP says. "I was speechless," Bremser told the wire service. "It made me believe in Christmas again."

-- Iowa. In Davenport, "store manager Amie Stone said a woman and her husband, who did not want to be identified, stopped in Monday and told store employees they wanted to pay on some customers' accounts," the Quad City Times says. "I didn't know what to say; I had to call my boss," Stone told the newspaper. "I was so touched." According to the Times, "Stone said she chose four accounts that were either delinquent or had high balances. 'We thought the best ones would be ones that have kids' clothes and kids' toys. That way, they would be helping a family.' "

Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. It's Happened At Some Wal-Marts Too:

We had some other things to take care of but now that we've had time to circle back and do some more looking, we can report that there have been stories like this at some Wal-Marts too, including in:

-- Washington state. In Yelm, a woman brought $5,000 to one of the chain's stores and "started paying layaway customers' bills," last Sunday, according to The News Chick blog at KIRO-FM.

-- Virginia. "One Chesterfield woman who had her gifts on layaway got a sweet surprise when she found out a good Samaritan paid off her [$45] balance — all but a penny of it," WWBT-TV reports.

-- North Carolina. At the Wal-Mart in Washington, N.C., "an anonymous good Samaritan paid" paid off Betty Sue King's balance and those of several other people, WITN-TV says.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.