Giving by "layaway angels" at central San Joaquin Valley Kmart stores is becoming infectious.
On Monday, an 8-year-old boy went to the Clovis store with his mother and paid $20 toward another shopper's layaway account, store manager Michael Lee said.
Another woman, who paid off three layaway accounts over the weekend, told Lee she came into some extra money and wanted to help.
It started about a month ago at the Clovis store, but has really picked up since the layaway angels story became national news, Lee said.
Kmart, he theorizes, is the most likely place for the layaway payoffs because it is one of the few large stores offering year-round layaway.
Lee said layaway angels are not new this holiday season. Last year, he said a few people anonymously paid off bills of others at the Clovis store.
But this year, it's happening almost daily, Lee said. The phenomenon got a boost locally last week when a story was published in The Bee about layaway angels helping others at Kmart stores in the Midwest.
"I had one guy come in who was looking for the biggest layaway with the most kids' stuff," Lee said. "He paid $250 and left."
Lee said he is the fortunate one who gets to make telephone calls with the good news.
"It's exciting for me because I get to hear their voices," he said.
Tulare store manager Darin Johnson echoes Lee's sentiments: "There is no better call to make."
In Tulare, one layaway angel paid off $750 in accounts and another paid $500, Johnson said.
Two people came into the Kingsburg store on Saturday and another went in Sunday to pay off the bills for four people in the layaway line, said Harvey Rangel, an assistant manager.
One of the people in line was going to cancel her layaway account because she could not continue to pay, Rangel said.
"The customers in line were crying because they couldn't believe somebody would do that type of thing," Rangel said. "They couldn't believe that kind of Christmas spirit was going around."
The amounts paid by layaway angels in Kingsburg have ranged from $100 to $600, he said.
Layaway angels also have shown random kindness at the Visalia and Coalinga stores.
One layaway angel showed up over the weekend and paid off $100 in overdue accounts, said Thomas Knight, Visalia store manager.
"I think this year there really is an understanding in the country that there are people who aren't doing well," he said. "People who had their layaway paid off were pretty excited that they could say Santa Claus came."