By Mac Cerullo
---- — NEWBURYPORT — In the spirit of the holidays, a number of anonymous “layaway angels” have been paying off other customers’ layaways at Kmart to help make their Christmas a little more merry.
According to store officials, the anonymous benefactors have paid off more than $2,500 worth of gifts so far this holiday season, delighting customers who come in later and find that their gifts have already been paid for.
One such lucky customer was Rhonda Miller of Seabrook, who went to Kmart to pick up a Doc McStuffins checkup station playset for her granddaughter Kylie and was told that the layaway angel had already paid it off.
“I saw it on the news last year, and I thought it was so amazing that people are doing that,” Miller said.
The kind gesture was especially meaningful to Miller because she had already budgeted her money for the week without realizing she still had a gift on layaway. When she remembered the gift, she was faced with the choice of either paying for the gift and being left with only about $5 for the rest of the week, or wait until after Christmas to give Kylie the present.
“I went over with my $86, and a lady came up to me and told me that today was my lucky day,” Miller said. “That person is out there somewhere and I’d like to think that they read the newspaper, and I want them to know how much I appreciate it.”
Brenda Gimpelson, who is the store manager for the Newburyport Kmart, said she’s had about a dozen layaway angels come in to pay for people’s gifts. She added that the practice is common at other stores too, and has been for at least the past few years or so.
“I’ve been here 12 years, so definitely over the last five years it’s been solid,” Gimpleson said. “It definitely takes a lot of stress off the people waiting in line for their presents.”
Gimpleson said that Kmart’s store policy is for layaway angels to remain anonymous, but she said the generous individuals have included wealthy people looking to help those who are less fortunate, people from various charitable organizations and even some grandparents coming in with their grandchildren to teach them about the importance of giving during the holidays.
Miller said that when she picked up her layaway, she was told about another instance where a layaway angel paid off a considerably larger gift for another woman.
“She said something about a customer, and I’m assuming it was her store, and she said that lady had like a $250 layaway, and that person paid that off too,” Miller said. “I guess they said ‘I have everything that I need, I’d like to at least go out and do something for other people.’”