Lisa Sullivan stood in line at the layaway counter at the earlier this week, her two children in tow, hoping to pay off those Christmas presents. The holiday is less than a week away, and she was running out of time.
She didn’t have to do this. Sullivan had plenty of presents already, all safely hidden from her kids’ sight in her Tinton Falls home and waiting to be wrapped for the big day.
She wasn’t standing in that line for herself. Sullivan is what Kmart this year is calling a “Layaway Angel” – an anonymous person who pays off the remaining layaway amount on someone else’s account.
It’s something she felt she had to do, a way to spread around some of her own good fortune to hopefully brighten someone’s Christmas day.
“You do one nice thing for someone, then hopefully they do something nice for someone else,’’ said Sullivan, 41. “It’s a good way to spread it around.’’
Since a nationwide news story circulated about anonymous donors paying off layaway accounts at Kmart stores across the country, the chain has seen a dramatic increase in the number of “Angels’’ paying off accounts. The Wall store is no exception, according to Kmart workers.
“People have been really generous,’’ said Terry, a Kmart manager at the Wall store who declined to give his full name. “We’ve gotten about five or six Angels a day.’’
The manager said it was the first time the company has seen people paying off the accounts of others.
But the idea has caught fire.
Sullivan said she was motivated to pay off someone’s tab when a friend of hers said she had already done the same.
“It made me realize how fortunate we are,’’ Sullivan said. “We both have jobs. We have our health, a home, a good school for the kids.’’
Sullivan works as an account manager at Links Insurance Services on Route 71 in Wall. Her husband, Mark, works in New York City as a marketing vice president.
Sullivan said she used the charitable moment as a teaching opportunity for her children.
“I explained that layaway was when you needed stuff but didn’t have the money right away because you’re paying bills and stuff,’’ Sullivan said. “And that we all were helping this person have a better Christmas.’’
Sullivan said the cashier behind the counter had just spoken to a woman who was checking on her layaway and had said she was worried that she might not be able to get there in time to pay it off.
The cashier was making the return call to tell the woman her tab was paid when Sullivan left.
In that same layaway line, Sullivan said, there were two more people behind her, also waiting to pay off someone’s bill.
“With everything that’s going on with the economy, and people being out of work, maybe this might spark someone else to do the same,’’ Sullivan said.