When Kmart assistant manager Yvonne Messink heard someone offered to pay the layaway bills for a needy customer Monday, she assumed it was the same woman she spoke with last Friday that was part of a trend happening at Kmart stores nationwide.
But to her appreciative surprise, someone else was compelled to make a difference this holiday season for a family having difficulty claiming the children's toys and clothing awaiting them in the layaway program. In addition to a man who left a $40 gift card with staff over the weekend, Monday's visitor to the Bloomfield Township Kmart was the third good samaritan to spread the holiday cheer.
All have wanted to remain anonymous and declined opportunities to contribute to this story.
The Detroit Free Press reported last week that anonymous donors paid off strangers' layaway accounts and buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn't afford, especially toys and children's clothes. The first reports of "layaway angels" were publicized in Grand Rapids, but the trend has spread from Kmarts from California to Pennsylvania.
"That's just wonderful that people are coming forward and they've got a great thing going on here," Messink said.
Since she learned of the trend from her district manager and media reports last Friday, Messink said she started to research families on the layaway list to determine who has the greatest need in case other donations were made. Making the personal phone calls was time well spent, she said.
"I had tears in my eyes after being able to tell them about this because they were crying," Messink said of the first recipients. She said they were not able to pay their layaway bill by Christmas because of a pressing utility bill, and were resgined to letting the store keep the toys and clothes they picked out.
Anyone interested in participating locally can call Yvonne Messink at 248-335-7844 for more information.