Two secret Santas pay off gift layaways for local children

Woman and man paid about $170 each at different times

Two Santas made a secret visit to Medford on Friday by anonymously paying off some $350 on layaways of strangers at the Medford Walmart store.

The two caveats from the good Samaritans were that the accounts had to include toys for children and the gestures had to remain anonymous, according to Scott Starling, training coordinator at the store.

"It's so nice for someone to do this, so refreshing, especially during these tough times," said Starling, a Walmart employee for nearly 20 years.

"I've never seen this happen before — ever," he added, noting the two have been dubbed "secret Santas."

The first elf came in the form of a woman who arrived at the store's layaway department that morning, he said.

"She said she wanted to pay off some layaways but wanted to make sure there were toys in them," he said. "We went through some accounts and found some with toys. She paid off five or six layaways."

Layaways often are made by those who can't afford to pay for the items outright.

All told, the woman spent about $170 on the accounts, leaving a dollar owed on each one to keep them open, he said.

Then a man walked into the store in north Medford late Friday afternoon, following in the footsteps of the morning Santa, he said.

"The gentleman also paid off about $170 in layaways, and also wanted to make sure each account included toys," Starling said. "We verified they contained toys and he paid on them. He left a quarter in each account to keep them open."

It was unknown whether the two people knew each other.

"Whoever is doing it, it's wonderful," Starling said.

There were no reports of it happening at other local stores.

However, there have been several reports of similar activity occurring across the nation, in places like Chicago, Omaha and Indianapolis. An Associated Press story on layaway Santas elsewhere in the country ran in Friday's Mail Tribune.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email pfattig@mailtribune.com.


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