Layaway angels spread holiday cheer
Christmas came early this week for 10 area families, thanks to an anonymous $1,000 layaway "angel" donor.
Amy Tentis of rural Rochester was stunned when she got the call from Kmart on Tuesday saying that the remaining $157 price of her layaway of presents for her three children had been paid off. The donation paid for the snowboards that her nine-year-old and seven-year-old daughters had asked for Christmas.
"I basically got goosebumps. I asked, 'Is this real?,'" said Tentis. "I had tears coming out and she (the assistant Kmart manager) was crying with me. It was amazing."
The Rochester Kmart usually sees a few layaway angels every holiday seasons, but this year's donation stands out.
"This one is much larger than any we've seen in the past. They literally just left an envelope with $1,000 and asked us to pay off layaways with toys in them," said Tara Vesper, the assistant store manager who made the calls to the 10 beneficiaries of the gift.
This donation made life a lot easier for Kari and Jerome Bye, who are both recovering recent surgeries. The Byes of Stewartville have 10 children and 21 grandchildren in their blended family. They put the presents for the grandchildren on layaway, so they could methodically pay them off while dealing with their medical issues.
"The timing was perfect, We were planning on more of a limited Christmas with everything going on. This really eases some financial burdens," said Kari Bye.
The national layaway angel phenomenon seems to grow larger each holiday season with individuals and organizations making payments of sometimes tens of thousands of dollars to stores like Kmart and Walmart to help families pay for their gifts.
However, smaller donations make a big impact, too. Kmart's Vesper says usually they see people come to anonymously pay $50 to $200 off of a layaway to surprise a friend or family member.
Bye said the unexpected gift is inspiring.
"Now we want to find our opportunity to pay it forward. It's a wonderful thing to do," she said. "I hope they know how much it was appreciated."
The surprise gave Tentis an opportunity to talk to her nine-year-old daughter about helping others.
"She told me that it is amazing that somebody is so giving that they would do this for our family. I said we always have to do what we can to give back," she said. "This just makes Christmas so much more special."