December 21, 2011

White Dog and the White Dog Army
Wonderful World Wednesday

White Dog and the rest of The White Dog Army love this season because it seems to bring out the best in humans. While they aren’t really sure why it takes a particular season or calendar event to trigger mass kindness, compassion and generosity, they are thrilled that so many DO open their hearts and reach out.
The White Ones sort of expect year round caring and sharing based upon this community and what we regularly witness in our blogging family, but White Dog says that if it takes a special reason for the rest of the world to do their part to create a Wonderful World that the WDA would be glad to put to get a calendar to motivate them…starting with tomorrow, December 22nd…The White Dog’s seventh birthday!
For today, White Dog and the WDA would like to share this rash of random kindnesses that is breaking out across the country to make Christmas a little nicer for unsuspecting families. We love random acts of kindness and encourage them year round…
Anonymous Donors Pay Off Kmart Layaway Accounts
By The Associated PressPosted 7:22AM 12/16/11 Retail   Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The young father stood in line at the Kmart layaway counter, wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots. With him were three small children.

He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn't be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.

"She told him, 'No, I'm paying for it,'" recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis. "He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke. I told him it wasn't, and that she was going to pay for him. And he just busted out in tears."

At Kmart stores across the country, Santa seems to be getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers' layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn't afford, especially toys and children's clothes set aside by impoverished parents.

Before she left the store Tuesday evening, the Indianapolis woman in her mid-40s had paid the layaway orders for as many as 50 people. On the way out, she handed out $50 bills and paid for two carts of toys for a woman in line at the cash register.

"She was doing it in the memory of her husband who had just died, and she said she wasn't going to be able to spend it and wanted to make people happy with it," Deppe said. The woman did not identify herself and only asked people to "remember Ben," an apparent reference to her husband.

Deppe, who said she's worked in retail for 40 years, had never seen anything like it.

"It was like an angel fell out of the sky and appeared in our store," she said.

Most of the donors have done their giving secretly.

Dona Bremser, an Omaha nurse, was at work when a Kmart employee called to tell her that someone had paid off the $70 balance of her layaway account, which held nearly $200 in toys for her 4-year-old son.

"I was speechless," Bremser said. "It made me believe in Christmas again."

Dozens of other customers have received similar calls in Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Montana.

The benefactors generally ask to help families who are squirreling away items for young children. They often pay a portion of the balance, usually all but a few dollars or cents so the layaway order stays in the store's system.

The phenomenon seems to have begun in Michigan before spreading, Kmart executives said.

"It is honestly being driven by people wanting to do a good deed at this time of the year," said Salima Yala, Kmart's division vice president for layaway.

The good Samaritans seem to be visiting mainly Kmart stores, though a Wal-Mart spokesman said a few of his stores in Joplin, Mo., and Chicago have also seen some layaway accounts paid off.

Kmart representatives say they did nothing to instigate the secret Santas or spread word of the generosity. But it's happening as the company struggles to compete with chains such as Wal-Mart and Target.

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.

The sad memories of layaways lost prompted at least one good Samaritan to pay off the accounts of five people at an Omaha Kmart, said Karl Graff, the store's assistant manager.

"She told me that when she was younger, her mom used to set up things on layaway at Kmart, but they rarely were able to pay them off because they just didn't have the money for it," Graff said.

He called a woman who had been helped, "and she broke down in tears on the phone with me. She wasn't sure she was going to be able to pay off their layaway and was afraid their kids weren't going to have anything for Christmas."

"You know, 50 bucks may not sound like a lot, but I tell you what, at the right time, it may as well be a million dollars for some people," Graff said.

Graff's store alone has seen about a dozen layaway accounts paid off in the last 10 days, with the donors paying $50 to $250 on each account.

"To be honest, in retail, it's easy to get cynical about the holidays, because you're kind of grinding it out when everybody else is having family time," Graff said. "It's really encouraging to see this side of Christmas again."

Lori Stearnes of Omaha also benefited from the generosity of a stranger who paid all but $58 of her $250 layaway bill for toys for her four youngest grandchildren.

Stearnes said she and her husband live paycheck to paycheck, but she plans to use the money she was saving for the toys to help pay for someone else's layaway.

In Missoula, Mont., a man spent more than $1,200 to pay down the balances of six customers whose layaway orders were about to be returned to a Kmart store's inventory because of late payments.

Store employees reached one beneficiary on her cellphone at Seattle Children's Hospital, where her son was being treated for an undisclosed illness.

"She was yelling at the nurses, 'We're going to have Christmas after all!'" store manager Josine Murrin said.

Bottom of Form
A Kmart in Plainfield Township, Mich., called Roberta Carter last week to let her know a man had paid all but 40 cents of her $60 layaway.

Carter, a mother of eight from Grand Rapids, Mich., said she cried upon hearing the news. She and her family have been struggling as she seeks a full-time job.

"My kids will have clothes for Christmas," she said.

Angie Torres, a stay-at-home mother of four children under the age of 8, was in the Indianapolis Kmart on Tuesday to make a payment on her layaway bill when she learned the woman next to her was paying off her account.

"I started to cry. I couldn't believe it," said Torres, who doubted she would have been able to pay off the balance. "I was in disbelief. I hugged her and gave her a kiss."

A reminder: The White Dog Army invites you to stop by tomorrow for a chance to spread a bit of Christmas magic yourself. Thursday is Siku Marie's (THE White Dog) seventh birthday. To celebrate, her brothers and sisters will randomly draw seven lucky winners from the comments left on her day. Each winner have the opportunity to choose a charity recipient of a special prize...and White Dog will have the thrill of her favorite kind of bash, a Pay It Forward Party.


Stella said...

The world is full of angels and reading about the K-mart Angels has been a delight. Thank you for giving them some extra credit in your blog!

Merry Christmas to all!

Jo and Stella

meowmeowmans said...

I just love these stories. Thank you for sharing this joy with all of us!

We will see you tomorrow for Siku Marie's party (woohoo!). :)

Amber DaWeenie said...

It always seems to take some kind of catastrophe (natural disaster, terrorist event, bad economy, etc.) to bring people together. It should be like this all the time but it's especially good for children who will now have a Christmas.

We'll be back tomorrow!


Dog Fence said...

Wonderful stories, thanks for sharing to us, and Merry Christmas!

It's all About Pet Fences

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Angels are everywhere.
Thank you for reminding me

Sagira said...

We saw that on the news. People are so kind and I hope the people truly appreciate what another has done for them. :)