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Donors truly angels for local families

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Christmas is almost here, and some area stores have been visited by layaway angels making the season merrier for those in need.

Layaway angels are people who enter a store and pay off layaway accounts, usually for customers who are purchasing toys and other items for children. 

The Kmart on Patrick Street in Charleston has had visits from two layaway angels since Monday, said Billy Rasnake, store manager.

The first paid off eight accounts totaling about $1,200 on Monday, he said. The second came in Wednesday and paid off three layaways totaling about $400, Rasnake said.

Both angels wished to remain anonymous, and both paid accounts with clothing for small children and toys.

The manager expected another angel Thursday evening.

"He called us and wanted us to find some accounts that needed to be paid off," Rasnake said.

Rasnake thought this angel would pay about $1,000 worth of layaways.

Anonymous Santas also have visited the Kanawha City Kmart, said John Hudson, operations manager.

"We've had two layaway angels come in so far," he said. "One came in a few days ago and one came in last week."

Each paid about $1,000.

"It's terrific," Hudson said. "It's just great to see people do this."

The angels at Kanawha City also chose to pay accounts that had children's toys and clothes, he said.

Hudson said the store likely would not contact the people whose layaway accounts were paid, opting instead to wait for them to come in. 

"We like for them to be surprised," he said.

Some families in Vienna in Wood County also were

surprised by a visit from the layaway angels, according to The Associated Press.

A man paid off about $8,600 in layaways at the Vienna Kmart on Wednesday. That covered 41 accounts.

"First he wanted to just do toys," said Kyle Chester, the store's manager. "We explained to him that most people have a vast array of merchandise in layaway."

Chester said the man, who wanted to remain anonymous, hopes his gift will move others to take similar actions.

Layaway angels are not a new phenomenon, Rasnake said. About 30 accounts were paid by donors before last Christmas.

The angels started coming into the store at the beginning of December last year. 

"Last year was the first year I'd heard anything about this," he said.

Rasnake hopes more people will take up the cause.

"It's just really nice to see this kind of generosity," he said. "Once the customers come in and see that their accounts have been paid off, they always tear up.

"You can just tell that they're very grateful."  

Kmart stores also have a layaway giveaway program. An account is randomly drawn once a month and paid in full, Rasnake said. 

"I've seen us pay off accounts that were around $400, and I've seen us pay off accounts that were for $40," Rasnake said. "It's totally random."

The company has been participating in the layaway giveaway program for nine weeks, he said.   

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817.     Follow him at 



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