VIENNA - A layaway angel has helped people in the local community for the holiday season by paying off their layaway balances at the Vienna Kmart Wednesday around noon.
A customer came into the store and requested to pay off layaways that contained toy items, said store manager Kyle Chester.
''Kmart gathered 41 contracts that had toys items,'' Chester said. ''The total of the contracts came to $8,638.12."
Photos by Mandi Cardosi
Store manager Kyle Chester stands near the Vienna Kmart layaway section where a man donated more than $8,000 to pay off items on hold at the store for local children.
Chester said the customer graciously wrote a check explaining he was afraid these children would not be able to have Christmas and wanted to make a difference. The donation is the biggest donation the store has received, store officials said.
Chester said he has been with the Kmart in Vienna for about six months and has never seen a donation of this magnitude. He said the man came in and explained his plan.
"First he wanted to just do toys," said Chester. "We explained to him that most people have a vast array of merchandise in layaway."
Chester said employees found contracts containing mostly toys and gifts for children. He said it's a common practice to have people requesting to pay off items, but not the amount this man contributed.
"It brings back the true meaning of the Christmas season," he said. "We had to call all of the customers; they would get excited and express their feelings through tears and laughter."
Store employees said about three more people got wind of the secret Santa and had practiced the same charity that day. A few others have done so in the weeks leading up to Christmas, said Chester.
Erin Sims said gifts she had put on layaway for her three children were taken care of by the mysterious Santa.
Sims said she was shocked her 1-, 5- and 9-year-olds were given such a blessing.
"This is the best Christmas present I could have," she said. "Now I wish I could go out and pay-it-forward."
Sims said she wasn't sure the message she received on her cellular phone at work was real. She didn't want to get too excited.
"Sure enough, I called back and it was the real Kmart," she said. "I almost cried when I found out."
Chester said the man who made the sizable contribution wished to remain anonymous but hoped through his story others would be moved to join in on the Christmas spirit.
"He said hopefully it would spark (other people's) interest in the program," Chester said of the anonymous Santa Claus.