MILLVILLE, N.J. - Customers at the New Jersey Walmart with items on layaway received an early Christmas gift of their own thanks to a Secret Santa.
The man, who store manager Rosie Kaur said wishes not to be identified, paid off $49,000 worth of layaway merchandise for 223 people on Saturday.
And, no, it wasn't Mike Trout.
The Millville native and MLB star's name was swirling on social media as the rumored person behind the kind act, but Kaur denied that claim.
"Only me, I'm the only one who knows," Kaur said of the man's identity. "He's a local businessman, a very nice person. The customers were so grateful that someone wanted to do that."
Kimberly Green, 52, of Vineland was one of the beneficiaries of the generous deed.
She and her daughter, Shantay Jenkins, who works at the Millville Walmart, started with an $1,100 layaway order. The mystery Santa covered their $713 balance, according to Green.
"It's the nicest thing that's ever happened to me," Green said. "You see all these stories like this, and you don't expect it to happen in Vineland or Millville. It's just really uplifting."
It was so shocking, Green didn't believe it was real.
"I told my daughter to call somebody, text somebody, because they're lying," Green joked. "When I found out it was true, I was like, 'Wow.'"
Jenkins said the Secret Santa's kind act has been the talk of the store since it happened.
She worked the night of the payoff and noted there were a lot of surprised customers.
"People were coming in to cancel their layaways and come to find out it was paid off for them," Jenkins said. "Another customer called to see if we could hold the layaway a couple days longer because they didn't get their paycheck yet, and we were able to let them know it was paid off and to come and pick it up."
Kaur said the man's plan to cover the layaway orders came together very quickly.
She had an initial phone conversation with him, then asked to see him in person before finalizing the transaction.
The last day to pay off layaway orders is Dec. 11, Kaur said.
"He actually felt bad because he wished he came in earlier to do it and help more people," Kaur said.
This wasn't the only Secret Santa to strike in South Jersey this holiday season.
In November, a man identified as "Charlie K" paid off 62 layaway orders totaling $10,780 at the Cherry Hill Toys "R" Us. He also bought an additional $2,000 worth of items for Toys for Tots.
As for the Millville Walmart act, the giving spirit appears to have rubbed off on Green.
She hopes to return the favor in whatever way she can.
"It's a lot I don't have to worry about now because of this," Green said. "I'm shopping for nine grandkids and wasn't going to be able to get them some of the stuff until after Christmas.
"I'm going to pay it forward somehow. I'm going to do something. Maybe cook a turkey dinner for people who need it."
Anthony V. Coppola: @AVCoppola; 856-563-5258; firstname.lastname@example.org
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