Maria Radilla’s daughter wants a bicycle for Christmas, but Radilla couldn’t pay the full balance at once so she took advantage of Kmart’s layaway program, which allows her to pay in small increments.
When the Santa Barbara resident got to the layaway counter at the back of the Goleta Kmart on Friday afternoon to pick up the pink Huffy bicycle, the cashier told her an anonymous donor had paid her balance.
At first, Radilla thought it was a mistake. When asked how the random act of kindness made her feel, she started to cry.
“A lot of families right now are struggling and don’t have the money to buy their kids something, and for someone to come and do this is just wonderful,” Radilla told Noozhawk.
Anonymous “layaway angels” have been paying off strangers’ bills across the country. Layaway angels at Kmart alone have paid off more than 1,000 layaway accounts adding up to more than $400,000, with some people donating thousands of dollars, according to a Kmart spokesman.
“I would tell (my angel) thank you and give them a big hug,” Radilla said. “I may cry a little.”
Goleta resident Dennis Hand was in line behind Radilla at the store at 6865 Hollister Ave. He offered to pay $150 worth of people’s overdue layaway bills. Although Hand said he had donated to charities before, he never had a chance to have an impact on someone’s life personally.
“I can think of a time when if someone paid me $100, $50 or put $20 in my pocket, I would’ve been astounded and had gratitude beyond counting,” Hand said. “If you can do something to help someone, it doesn’t have to be how much — just do it.”
Hand said he was watching the television news Thursday night and heard about someone back East who had paid for all of the layaway bills at Kmart, and he decided to do what he could to make a difference.
“It’s an attempt to do something worthwhile for someone who needs the help,” he said. “I hope it continues to catch on and gets bigger and bigger.”
A customer came into the Goleta Kmart on Thursday night who was a week late on her layaway payments for her children’s toys. She had no idea an angel had paid her balance, according to Kmart assistant store manager Sean Nguyen.
“She was shocked,” Nguyen said. “She stopped dead in her tracks, started crying and called her parents. Seeing that happiness on her face after some stranger paid off her layaway is one of the greatest feelings. It was amazing seeing her light up like that.”
Although the layaway program was established two years ago, Nguyen said the random acts of kindness have exponentially multiplied during the past two weeks. Click here for information about becoming a layaway angel.
“The past couple of weeks have been huge,” he said. “We’ve had at least 30 people pay off layaways that could add up to more than $5,000.”
Rodilla was certainly feeling the Christmas spirit.
“It means so much to all of the people they helped,” she said.