For one young couple in the Minot area, it truly is better to give than to receive.
On Saturday morning, a couple went to the layaway department at Kmart and paid off most of the layaway bills for four families in need to the tune of around $1,000. Toni Conway, an assistant manager, was working layaway at the time and said the couple stood patiently in line just like everybody else and waited for their turn.
"They approached me and said, 'This is weird, but we'd like to help out families to pay off their layaway,'" Conway said. "They said they had a budget, but can you help us pick out the families that have all toys. I guess it's all for kids."
Dan Feldner/MDN • Jade Stenberg, shoe lead at Kmart, shows some of the toys in the store’s layaway department Sunday afternoon.
Conway gave the couple a list of layaway accounts that were overdue and contained toys for children. The two went over the list and settled on the bills of four families. Conway said they left between $5 and $20 remaining on each layaway, which was just a small portion of what the original bill had been.
Conway said some of the phone calls she made to the families whose layaway bills had been paid were incredibly emotional, and she will never forget them.
"One was ready to cancel it because her dad kind of had a medical situation and they went home to Minneapolis, so she was crying on the phone," Conway said.
Another woman Conway called actually started arguing with her that she had far more left on her layaway balance, and that Conway must have the wrong account. Once Conway explained the situation to her, she was just about in tears.
The couple wished to remain anonymous and never did tell Conway their identity. She asked if they were from a charitable organization, and they said no, they just wanted to spread the joy of Christmas to some children.
"They didn't want to leave their name or anything, they just said we're some Christmas angels," Conway said.
The incredible generosity of the couple even put Conway in tears, which in turn made the young woman paying the bills blush a little.
"It's one of those Oprah moments, you know?" Conway said with a laugh.
Dave Bussard, store manager of Kmart, was blown away when he heard about it. He said the gesture of that young couple will make a huge difference in the lives of all four families this Christmas.
"I tell you, they're going to make this Christmas for those people very memorable," Bussard said.
They aren't the only ones who will be helping to give area children a memorable Christmas, either. A Salvation Army Angel Tree sits near the entrance of Kmart, and its limbs have been picked mostly clean of tags with toy suggestions for needy boys and girls. The toys on the tags aren't all that expensive, but mean the world to children who might otherwise get little or nothing this Christmas.
"We have had an overwhelming response with the angel tree as well. People have been really kind to help out with picking up children's things off the tree and have been very, very generous," Bussard said. "It's awesome to see that generosity in our community, because we have just so many good people in our community. People care about each other and they're taking care of our own."
Bussard said the couple's generosity was an enormous morale booster for all the employees when word started getting around the store, and put everyone in a great Christmas mood.
He said it also meant an awful lot that the couple took the time to go though the list and pick the families they thought were most in need.
"When we were calling to tell some of the folks that their layaways had been paid off for all but $5 - Christmas angels had made a payment - they were just overwhelmed with joy and tears. It was just helping their dollar stretch further," Bussard said. "That's nice to know that the people that were helped were truly folks that needed help."
Bussard said the thoughtfulness of everyone who has helped someone else this holiday season, from the couple who paid the layaway bills for those four grateful families to the folks who took the time to grab a tag from the angel tree and make Christmas a little brighter for a young child, really is what makes this the most wonderful time of the year.
"Your body just starts tingling when you see the good deeds being done by good folks in the community," he said. "It just means so much to everybody."