Secret Santas give customers a holiday surprise

LANGHORNE, Pa. - December 18, 2011

It has happened at a local K-Mart in Bucks County over the weekend.

"The look on their faces, the tears in their eyes, just fills your heart with joy," said K-Mart employee Melissa LaBadie.

A joyful Melissa LaBadie was behind the counter at K-Mart as beneficiaries of some surprising goodwill picked up their layaways.

Since Friday, more than 10 secret Santas have come to the Langhorne store and paid off more than $3,000 in layaway bills for more than 15 families facing hard times.

"We've had about 10 or 12 people come in. It has been pretty consistent," said manager Jen Roche.

On Sunday, many recipients at the Langhorne area K-Mart, seemed to be in a dazed when they were told their layaways have been paid off.

"I was just in total shock and overwhelmed. My husband was crying. I was crying," said Linda Hudson.

K-Mart manager Jen Roche and her assistant Marie Jerdenko say they've never seen anything like it.

For many, it seems they simply want to give a little holiday cheer to those in need.

"I had a couple last night who said they were fortunate enough not to struggle, and they wanted to help someone who was," said Jerdenko.

"They paid it off," said a surprised Sharon Jeschonek. "It was very important, because I wasn't sure if we were going to have a Christmas this year."

Longtime managers say the Santas especially wanted to help those struggling to put warm clothes and toys under the tree.

"We looked for customers that were making payments but struggling to keep up with them," Jen Roche said.

"I think it's terrific," said Mary, an Assistant Manager. "The true meaning of Christmas is back."

Nationally, the first reports of K-Mart Layaway Santas surfaced last week in the Midwest. It plays like something from a Frank Capra movie; like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life".

"It is amazing that people still do stuff like this today. It's great," said Justina Brutschea.

At an Indiana K-Mart, a woman who paid off more than 50 layaways, made only one request of recipients. "She said the only thing for me is to give back," explained Angie Torres.

The idea of paying it forward or giving something to someone else in need when you can, was already on the mind of recipient Linda Hudson.

"We're going to try," said Hudson. My husband gets paid next week; maybe we'll give to St Jude's or maybe our local food bank."

Action News was told shortly after shooting Sunday's report, another secret Santa slipped in among the shoppers, and paid for yet another family's layaway.

The phenomenon has happened mostly at K-Mart stores and continues to grow.

When asked why their stores were targeted, the company said they are unsure.

K-Mart first introduced their layaway policy over 40 years ago.

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