WEST CHAZY — Danielle Nichols is grateful for the surprising generosity of a complete stranger.
And she hopes someday to pay it forward.
Nichols and her fiancé, Matthew Rougier, of West Chazy, believed that they had lost the holiday gifts they had on layaway. They were worried about what they could do for their 3-year-old son, Nathan.
“We were trying to figure out how to pay the bills and buy Christmas presents at the same time,” said Nichols.
It proved to be a difficult struggle — so much so that Nichols believed that the gifts they had on layaway had already been put back on the store shelves.
Then, Rougier’s mother got a call from Kmart.
“They said we should call them, and that it was something good.”
So Nichols called. And she was told that her gifts had been paid for anonymously.
A woman they called the “layaway angel” had paid off most of their balance of nearly $350 — except for $2 and change, which was all Nichols and Rougier still needed to pay.
“Of course I immediately started bawling,” Nichols said. “I still get teary-eyed. Matt couldn’t believe it on the way out — he didn’t believe it until we got to layaway.”
Nichols, Rougier and their son had benefited from a local participant in a nationwide phenomenon — “layaway angels,” as they are being called, anonymously paying for the holiday gifts placed on layaway by strangers.
Stephanie Decker, assistant manager of the Kmart store in Plattsburgh, is familiar with the phenomenon. She estimates that last year, the store had between five and 10 such instances. This year, she has personally been approached by two or three anonymous givers, and she believes there many more.
“Sometimes it is anonymous local business owners who come in and ask to pay for layaways that have toys,” Decker said. “Usually, it’s people coming in to pay their own layaway, and paying off strangers’ layaways at the same time.”