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Layaway angels spreading cheer

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
Layaway angels have appeared at the Kmart in Salisbury, secretly paying off toys and bikes in a national phenomenon sweeping through the discount chain.
ěWe have had secret Santas come in and pay on peopleís accounts,î said Ronda Rissew, manager of the Salisbury Kmart. ěItís great for our community. Itís so nice for people to reach out.î
Rissew wouldnít say how much layaway angels have donated locally, but across the country, anonymous donors have paid off $426,000 worth of merchandise on layaway at Kmart.
As of Wednesday, the largest donation was $20,000, Rissew said. She said this is the first year sheís been aware of the Kmart Christmas miracles.
In Salisbury, secret Santas appear at the layaway counter and ask to pay toward accounts with toys, bikes or clothing, Rissew said. Layaway clerks put the donation toward accounts containing items the donor specifies, she said.
Rissew declined a request to interview layaway clerks, and a corporate spokesman did not reply to a request for more details.
Kmart executives said the phenomenon appears to have begun in Michigan. They say they did nothing to instigate the secret Santas or spread word of the generosity.
ěIt is honestly being driven by people wanting to do a good deed at this time of the year,î said Salima Yala, Kmartís division vice president for layaway.
Kmart may be the focus of layaway generosity, Yala said, because it is one of the few large discount stores that has offered layaway year-round for about four decades. Under the program, customers can make purchases but let the store hold onto their merchandise as they pay it off slowly over several weeks.

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