Valley shoppers touched by 'Layaway Angels'

FRESNO, Calif.

Many families plan ahead and make payments for two to three months so their kids can have Christmas presents. This year some layaway accounts have been anonymously paid off.

The layaway line at the K-Mart in Clovis was full of shoppers who carefully calculated their holiday spending.

The store's layaway motto is "big dreams, small payments" but never in their wildest dreams did customers think anonymous donors would pay off some accounts.

Donna Maddox of Fresno said, "It just makes me cry. It's wonderful. I wish I could be able to help people out because there's so many people with the economy and so many children who need help."

Store manager Mike Lee noticed the layaway angels started showing up three weeks ago. He said, "We actually had a customer come in and she paid off six layaways."

Now it happens just about every day. Often the angels want to pay for accounts with lots of kids clothing and of course toys.

Lee took us inside a locked room full of video game consoles. "See in here is where we keep all the real fun games and stuff for kids. We've even had angels come in and pay off quite of a few of these."

Lee added employees love to call customers to tell them their accounts paid in full. "I have people cry on the phone. I've probably shed one or two tears. It's an exciting feeling to be the person to tell them you've had an angel come and take care of you."

32,000 items went on layaway at this store alone. Shoppers we talked to were genuinely touched by the generosity of these layaway angels. The practice has caught on nationally with instances in several states.

Holiday shopper Catalina Vela said, "That's really nice, especially this year for the holidays with the economy."

Lee said one woman wandered over to layaway and told a customer in line she wanted to pay for her gifts. He explained, "It's like Santa Claus. They just swooped in and swooped out."

Lee said the donors always want to remain anonymous. One donor wanted to help out an expectant mother and asked to pay off an account which included a car seat and stroller.

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