January 20th, 2012
“Can I pay off some people’s layaway?”
That question, posed by a woman in her thirties to a Grand Rapids Kmart clerk, ignited a trend that made Christmas 2011 brighter for people around the country. “I just want to help people,” the mystery woman said. And so she did, paying off $500 in layaway bills for three strangers. The only clue she left to her identity was a note scribbled on each layaway ticket: “Happy Holidays from a friend.”
That kind of anonymous generosity attracts attention even in Grand Rapids, where good deeds are a daily routine. Local news reports inspired a man to visit Kmart the very next day and pay off 14 layaway accounts. It just snowballed from there – within one week, more than 40 accounts had been paid off at the store, with donations topping $5,000. Other area stores began reporting similar acts of generosity.
News of Grand Rapids’ Secret Santas soon went national with a spot on NBC Nightly News, which led to additional newspaper and blog coverage. That inspired anonymous donors across the country, from Chicago to California and Indianapolis to North Carolina. Kmart told USA Today in late December that more than 1,000 layaway accounts totaling $420,000 had been paid. The giving spirit was also extended to other retailers – including an Alabama Wal-Mart store where a man spent $11,000 to pay off 75 layaway items.
“The phenomenon apparently began three weeks ago when a woman paid off three layaway charges at a Grand Rapids, Mich., Kmart,” confirmed USA Today. “Media coverage prompted a slew of copycat givers.”
Here’s hoping for more copycats next holiday season!