The charitable Secret Santa trend has reached the D.C. area, where people are paying off strangers’ layaway accounts.
With three children and only one source of income, Tiffaney Grayson began a Kmart layaway plan in northern Virginia in October to make sure her kids would have at least some of the things they want for Christmas.
As she stood in line to make a payment Friday, a man engaged her in small talk.
"As it was his turn, he let me go in front of him and as I took out my book to pay my layaway, he put up his credit card and said, ‘I would like to take care of this for her, and I was just so happy,” Grayson said. “He told me Merry Christmas, and we gave each other a big hug, and I've just been on cloud nine ever since."
The man paid more than $100 clearing one of Grayson's layaway accounts and put $75 toward a second one.
"Oh, he's our Christmas angel,” Grayson said. “He really is. He made it all happen for us."
Monday, Grayson paid off the last few dollars of that second account and had money to buy a few more gifts.
Another Secret Santa in northern Virginia said the movement struck a chord with her.
“It just got me teary-eyed,” she said. “I just thought that was so great, and the first time I heard about it I thought, I'm going to do that."
She paid off $100 for someone she doesn’t know.
“It was all a little girl’s clothes, so I said, OK, that sounds good,’” she said.
“Maybe it will give them a better outlook on life,” she added.
Michelle Fair, of Kmart, said Secret Santas started appearing at the store in Manassas two weeks ago. One man cleared $500 in layaway items.
"It's just totally catching on,” Fair said. “It's just helping out people you don't know."
Secret Santas are active in Maryland, too. Someone walked into a Prince Frederick Kmart Sunday and cleared $20,000 in layaway items.