Oklahoma layaway angels, others pay forward while holiday shopping

Kmart customers paying off the accounts of strangers and a global market that supports schoolchildren in Africa are a few unique ways consumers are giving back this holiday season in Oklahoma.
by Jennifer Palmer Published: December 6, 2012
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'Tis the season for giving, and some retailers are providing unique opportunities for shoppers to spread cheer to the less fortunate.

The trend of layaway angels — when a shopper randomly pays off the layaway accounts of strangers — is back this year. Glen Beckley, general manager of the Tulsa Kmart store at 10131 E 21st St., had his first layaway angel of the season visit the store a few days ago. She gave $200 and was able to pay off four customers' accounts.

Beckley said the woman brought her children with her and made it a teaching moment in “paying it forward.”

‘I can't believe it'

Last year, the store had more than $14,000 given by layaway angels, including one who gave $10,000. The accounts are paid except for a penny so they don't close, and the store employees call the lucky customers with the news.

“For the most part, it's a state of shock and ‘I can't believe it' and ‘that's wonderful,'” Beckley said. “They're real happy. The emotions last year were laughter and people crying.”

Monty Swain, who manages the Shawnee Kmart store where several layaway angels visited last year, said staff often help the giver identify households with children by looking for layaway accounts that have toys listed. The donors aren't allowed to access customers' names or personal information.

“They don't want recognition. It's not about them. It's about helping the kids out,” Swain said.

‘Dream Receipt'

Kohl's recently started a promotion with a twist on giving back. The retailer is picking up the tab for one lucky customer at each of its 1,100 stores nationwide, as well as one online customer, every day through Christmas Eve. Each winner also receives a $10 transferable gift card so they can pay it forward by giving it to someone else.

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by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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At a glance

Gifts with extra benefit

TOMS shoes: For every pair sold, the company donates a pair of shoes to children in need. So far, they have given more than 2 million pairs of shoes. TOMS are sold at Whole Foods Market, Metro Shoe Warehouse, Journeys, Sun & Ski Sports and other stores.

Charity Pot from LUSH: The cosmetics retailer donates every penny, excluding tax, from jars of its Charity Pot body lotion to grassroots charities across the globe. LUSH Cosmetics has one metro area location in Penn Square Mall.

Shop Good: Every item in this Oklahoma City boutique at 3 NW 9 is connected to a deserving charity or community.

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