With Christmas just around the corner, a Secret Santa popped in at the North Miami Walmart on 164th Street Monday. Amid a slowly moving layaway line, he presented Walmart management with two checks worth $1,500 to pay off random customers' outstanding balances.
That Secret Santa was RS Schmitt from the South Beach Athletic Club. This is the third year the club has made the holiday purchase season a little less worrisome for folks trying to provide Christmas gifts for their kids.
Schmitt had a check with him worth $500, but he says giving is contagious.
"On the way over here – a donor called and said come by our office and pick up a check. A check for a thousand dollars," Schmitt said.
In a back room Walmart's co-manager, Jamie Bryant, flipped through pages of more than 5,500 customers on layaway. She started making random calls, surprising a few on the list.
Bryant knew one person she had to call – Betty Payne, whom she met the day before. Payne is a grandmother of 25 and a colon cancer survivor.
Payne showed up 30 minutes after the call. She was all smiles, offering hugs to Bryant and saying she truly feels blessed.
"I couldn't believe this. There are some good people out there," Payne said. "I said someone cares about me."
The deadline to finalize outstanding balances at Walmart is Dec. 13. If balances aren't paid, the item goes back on the shelf and Walmart redeems the customer what was paid already.
Payne says she would have struggled to make the remaining payments to give her grandkids a Christmas from Grandma. Her reaction to and praise of the South Beach Athletic Club was truly the epitome of appreciation.
Schmitt says this is what the season is about. He's hoping the customers who saw their layaway balances dissolved will in turn do something nice for someone else. Pay it forward.
For more information on the South Beach Athletic Club's payoff layaways program, log on to www.payofflayaways.org.