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Nearly 200 shoppers at a Pennsylvania Wal-Mart received an unexpected holiday gift this week, when a mystery person under the moniker "Santa B" paid off $46,265.59 in layaway items.
According to a report by the Bedford County Free Press, a woman walked into a local Wal-Mart store in Everett, Pennsylvania, and handed over a check to pay off the balances on 194 layaway accounts.
Layaway is a popular way for financially strapped shoppers to put a deposit on their holiday gifts, and pay off the balance throughout the season. It's used at retailers including Wal-Mart and Kmart.
Sandy Terry was one of the shoppers whose account was paid off by Santa B. She had put an Xbox on layaway for her 6-year-old grandson, and still owed $75 on her account, she told CNBC. But due to surgery complications, she recently had to quit her job, and was worried about how to pay off the balance.
"I'm just so thankful that he's going to get it this year," she said. "Thank you so much to [the person who] paid it off for me."
These types of heart-warming stories pop up each holiday season, thanks to generous donors and charitable organizations. Pay Away the Layaway, a non-profit group that was founded in 2011, is on pace to pay off a record amount of accounts this season, topping $100,000 in value, founder Lee Karchawer told CNBC.
The group, whose largest partnerships are with Kmart, Toys R Us, and Burlington, recently started its season of giving. But the majority of its events, which will occur in roughly 30 U.S. cities, will kick off in earnest this weekend, Karchawer said. The organization keeps those specific locations under wraps to keep the surprise.
"Every year we've gotten bigger and bigger," Karchawer said.
Yet one story still stands out to him. Back in 2014, Pay Away the Layaway visited a Kmart store in the Bronx. Just one day before the event, one woman whose account was paid off had lost everything in a fire.
"She literally just broke down," Karchawer said. "That moment was something I'll never forget."