MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (CBS) — The true spirit of the holiday season was felt in South Jersey on Wednesday. That’s where a handful of families were surprised to find out gifts they had on layaway for weeks were paid off.
In this case, those secret Santas are from the payroll department of a nearby automotive company. They have an office holiday party every year that includes secret Santas, but this year they decided to pool that money and spend it on families in need at the Walmart in Mount Laurel.
“We did that as a group. We contributed money we would use to exchange gifts,” Patty Esser said.
Esser works as a payroll administrator at Holman Automotive in Maple Shade. She recently shared an item on her bucket list with her coworkers: to pay off the layaways for families during Christmas.
“I thought I would always like to do that,” she said.
Her dozen-plus coworkers in the payroll department at Holman agreed to help. They came up with nearly $500 and decided to spend the money to pay off layaways at the Mount Laurel Walmart.
“The cashier at Walmart helped us and we chose families with layaways that had children,” Esser said.
Altogether, four customers were told their layaways had a balance of $0 thanks to some secret Santas.
“I was like in tears yesterday,” Jessica Perrone said. “The first thing I wanted to do was start crying. I actually like hugged the lady over the counter.”
Perrone, a single mom, was among the customers who didn’t owe anything.
She says she had $150 worth of L.O.L. Dolls, LEGOs and other gifts she was planning to buy for her 9-year-old daughter Jayden.
“I know that doesn’t seem like a lot but for me that’s huge. That’s huge,” Perrone said.
On Perrone’s receipt, the words “Good Samaritan Payment” were written.
Eyewitness News had a surprise for the secret Santas — Perrone walked in and the two sides met.
“I can’t thank you enough, especially during the holiday season, every little penny counts,” Perrone said. “I’m gonna continue to pass it forward. I really can’t thank you enough. I just want to hug every last one of you.”
Perrone also says she’s planning to pay it forward by buying a toy or two for another family in need.