Citizen Philanthropy – Layaway Santas

"Citizen Philanthropy" is a fancy way of describing "regular" people who donate to good causes or their fellow man/woman/child.

Last week there were several news reports of people around the country walking into K-Mart's and paying off strangers' layaway accounts.

Here's an Associated Press account:

In late November in Reading, PA  an anonymous gentleman went to the places where the poor tend to be and handed out $100 bills.  One lady with six children received $600.

Here's a story with video on that one...

Most of us can't afford to walk around handing out $100 bills to dozens of people.

However, by virtue of the fact you are reading this, you can probably go to a nearby K-Mart and put $10 or $20 down on someone's layaway bill.

And before you dismiss the idea of giving even $10 or $20, ponder this:

"Do the people doing all this "citizen philanthropy" do it because they have extra money or do they have extra money because they are citizen philanthropists?"

I have my thoughts but experience it for yourself.

Here is the Kmart store locator:

I think Walmart has layaway programs too if one of those is closer.

Tonight, I stopped by a Kmart in a poorer area of the Capital District.  I intentionally went after 9PM to avoid long lines.

There were two young girls working in the Layaway area.

I said "have you seen those stories of people paying off layaway accounts?" Shaneque lit right up..."the layaway Santas?"  I said "yes" and "we'd like to do that."

She had heard of a few people doing that in her store but hadn't processed one herself so she paged "Sheila" to handle it.

As Sheila approached she looked tired, unhappy and not looking forward to whatever was awaiting her in the Layaway area.

She pulled out the printout of layaways and started looking for accounts with toys and or clothes indicating children were going to benefit.  She confirmed that is what I wanted and I said yes, "I don't want to be paying off some guy's big screen TV."

Shaneque thought that was funny.  Sheila wasn't so impressed.

Finally, she found one for me, read off the list of toys and gave me the balance owed.  I paid it all but 14 cents so it would stay in the system.

She found another one for Dawn who paid all but 8 cents on that one.

Sheila thanked us profusely several times...Shaneque beamed during the whole process and we left feeling great.

Sheila said she'd call them in the morning even though they probably wouldn't have minded a call at that moment.

How much we paid isn't important.

You can find accounts that can be finished for $20 although $50-$100 is more common.

Enlist a few of your Facebook fans in your own Layaway Santa project to keep the cost down.

Even if you can't pay off an account in full yourself, any amount you can afford will make someone's day.

Give it a try and please let me know how it goes for you!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  • kim says:

    What a wonderful thing you both did. I wish more people could realize what christmas is all about. Merry Christmas!

  • Art says:

    Very Christian of you, it’s said that by doing for others, you are doing in Gods name. So you made a greater being very happy. Good to know there are more than a few. God bless you both, as he obviously has already.

  • Laura says:

    You made me smile :). What a great idea.

  • Sandy says:

    Leo, you are the best!
    I am going to do this, along with my husband. Guess I’d better tell him about it, huh)! Will pass this idea along to friends and family, as well.

  • Darlene says:

    You always share the best ideas and stories with your readers. This is another great one! I’m going to share it with others myself.

  • Bernice Smith says:

    Dear Leo,
    What a wonderful idea. I don’t have aot of money but I can certainly give 20 or 30 dollars.

  • Pamela says:

    Nice job Leo. I love this idea. I’ll be stopping at the local Zellers store (Canada). Thanks for all you do Leo!

  • Patricia says:

    Once again, you are an inspiration. Thank you for shining your light so brightly that we can all see more clearly.

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