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West View Family Among Those 'Touched by an Angel' at Kmart

From California to Maryland, anonymous benefactors are heading to Kmart stores, picking families at random and paying off their layaway balances.

West View residents Jessica and Michael Zeppenfeld have been touched by an angel—a layaway angel.

“Last week we had heard about these Kmart angels making payments, and I said to my husband, ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be amazing if someone paid our layaway?’ ” Jessica Zeppenfeld, 31, said today.

“Literally 10 minutes later, a woman called from the Kmart [and] said a lady [came] in and made a payment on our layaway. We both started crying”

The anonymous generosity shown to the Zeppenfelds is one of the latest examples of a trend erupting from California to Maryland, in which benefactors head to Kmart stores across the country and pay off the layaway balance of a family chosen at random.

"It's been an organic development," said Shannell Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Sears Holdings Corp., which owns Kmart. "We don't promote it. We're just trying to keep up with the reports that keep coming in."

Those reports are increasing daily, according to Mike Divoky, 42, manager for the .

“We’ve had a bunch,” Divoky said. “Since last week, every store in the area has had at least one [layaway angel].”

He estimates that at the alone, at least a dozen layaway angels have put more than $1,200 towards the bills of complete strangers, like the Zeppenfelds.

“It just means so much,” Zeppenfeld said.  “I just wish I could thank whoever did it.” 

As have many other Americans, the Zeppenfelds said they have had a turbulent year. Jessica Zeppenfeld, who said she grew up in Allegheny County's foster-care system, and her husband Michael, adopted a 10-month-old niece, Sarah, when the infant's mother no longer could care for her.

The Zeppenfelds have three other children in the family—Hannah, 8, Jacob, 6, and Olivia, 5 months. Jessica Zeppenfeld said it’s financially impossible this year to provide everything the children want for Christmas.

“Things are just so expensive these days,” she said.

Michael Zeppenfeld, 38, who works for a union at a local steel mill, and Jessica had put Christmas gifts for the children, including Legos and dolls, on layaway in early December. Between the layaway angel’s $50 gift and the payment the Zeppenfelds already made, a balance of only $50 remains.

Divoky said he has never seen anything like this recent wave of generosity in his 25 years of retail-sales experience.

“It’s a really nice thing that people just show up and want to pay,” he said. “Especially because a lot of people are struggling these days.”

“It’s definitely tight,” Zeppenfeld said. “After my daughter made her list to Santa, I asked her if she could settle for just one thing that she really really wanted. But it’s hard, you know, because my kids still believe.”

And now, because of an angel, Jessica said she does, too.

“It just makes you realize there are still good people in the world.”

David Daur December 30, 2011 at 12:27 PM
What an amazing story. I was touched by an Angel in a Sears store once. Angel Montanez was his name. I believe he is still incarcerated for the crime and I'm almost done with counseling for the incident.
Joyce LeDonne Young December 30, 2011 at 01:33 PM
David Daur You are just spreading Christmas "Sourness" all throughout these posts. This is the second negative comment I read from you. Time to get rid of the "sour" Mr. "Daur"
Ashley Elzbieta Sapinski December 30, 2011 at 01:54 PM
David Daur is a troll he is leaving nasty comments all around these articles on aoljust ignore the creep
Selma Kahl December 30, 2011 at 01:56 PM
I was able to be a Kmart angel this year and it was the most fantastic event that happened to me. We had everyone crying. I know I was not suppose to be the one crying, but I was. Three new boys bikes, was what got me crying. Just toys maybe I would have left feeling good, but three boys bicycles I was so blessed by being able to be part of this. I do not cry often but I remember the joy of getting my first bicycle.
Selma Kahl December 30, 2011 at 01:58 PM
David, try being an Angel, you will not find greater joy.
Les Greenberg December 30, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Pick up the check at a restaurant for someone dressed in a military or firefighters' uniform during the year. Stop to help someone change a tire. Pay for the ice cream for the kids behind you in line. Buy a couple of bags of sea shells and scatter them on the beach where families are gathered. Root for the other kids on the field not just yours....Be a mentor for a child in need......When you go to the professional sporting event bring a couple of bagged lunches for the people that you see on the street asking for help...thee are many ways to be a secret angel not just on Christmas but through the entire year...try it once and a while and it will lift not just your spirits and that of the recipient, it will set an example for your children and friends who may become aware of your acts of kindness...It really makes a difference!!!!
Selma Kahl December 30, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Great suggestions Les. I will try to keep them in mind. The joy can be never ending and it does not have to cost a lot. Thanks, keep up the suggestions.
darlene December 30, 2011 at 04:00 PM
My daughter was touched by an "angel" this year and it couldn't have come at a better time. She was going in to eliminate some of the things she put on layaway because she just couldn't afford it all. When she got there she was told that the toys and clothes for her 2 children had been paid for in full!! She feels extremely blessed in what has been a tough year...she lost her job and her husband and has an 11 yr old and 2 month old baby....so who ever that "angel" was they have no idea how special they made Christmas for our family. As my grandson said when he was told Christmas morning about the 'angel"..."there really are Christmas miracles". and as one comment said above ...this kindness should not be just at Christmas but throughout the year!
David Daur December 30, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Selma, I couldn't agree with you more. Paying it forward is a beautiful way to share in the joy of the season. I just don't understand why people are attacking me for sharing my story as a victim with repressed memories from my childhood.
David Daur December 30, 2011 at 05:31 PM
I'm sorry you have so much to say about me since we don't know each other. You call me a troll yet it is not I who is doing the name calling with vicious personal attacks. I only offer you peace and goodwill in return at this special time of year. May God Bless your entire family!
David Daur December 30, 2011 at 05:34 PM
I'm only happy you do not have to contend with the emtionally scarring that haunts my past because of this incident. You should be a little more gently on how you conduct yourself in your posts. Some people like myself are very thin skinned and carry a lot of hurt by the hands of other individuals who are full of evil. Satan acts without mercy through some humans and the earth is his playground. Please learn to respect the feelings of others like myself.
Selma Kahl December 30, 2011 at 05:34 PM
David, bless you. It may have been the way it was stated. But I understand, when you are a victim, it does not go away easily. Happy new year.
David Daur December 30, 2011 at 06:27 PM
Thank you Selma, your kind words are much appreciated. Please enjoy a safe and Happy New year, extended to your family as well.
Merenda December 30, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Well that's all nice and good. But, what about those children of military that are no longer married and their soldier fathers spend more time and energy playing "hero and daddy" to their "new" spouses kids. Yet, YOU only see that and think that's it. Tnere are PLENTY of kids out here that are in this situation and NO ONE seems to care about them! I should know, I have 2 of them. Their father barely makes any calls nevermind visits the boys. But, these sons of OURS are ALWAYS overlooked not only by the military now due to our divorcing (his choice for not wanting to deal with me being diganosed with MS because it would hold him back from promotions/bases). but, they're also ignored by general society even though these kids STILL have a father who is fighting overseas, several tours now. They worry about EVERY CAR that comes up the street to tell them the bad news. I haven't the heart to tell them, that they won't be told like that at all. That they'll ONLY find out via his 3rd-current wife, IF she feels like it. NOT that they've EVER spoken to her, nor has there been ANY effort of such a r/s. So, HE/THEY can go on and have all the "props" benefits, and programs and people HELPING them, while WE put in the time too, and these sons of ours didn't make the choices that put them where they are. I'm ONLY ONE PARENT and can ONLY do so much for them. I'm so TIRED of how hard it is for US when people make it so easy for their father. WE STRUGGLE EVERYDAY and NO ONE CARES! It's SAD.
Merenda December 30, 2011 at 07:58 PM
Darlene, That's great! I had that same thing happen right after my now exhusband abandoned me and our 2 sons. Their Dad is military, he had just left us. The military simply cast us out anyway once he ditched us. Our oldest was in 1st grade, youngest still at home. We had just moved to the area, no base nearby anyway. I had NO IDEA how I was going to make Christmas special for them at those ages going through the loss of Daddy, not knowing people, new home/town, etc. Thank God my parents we're there to help us. Someone knocked on my door Christmas morning, I opened it to find 6 people standing there all with presents/boxes in their hands. They told me they were there for us. I invited them in after some questioning, they told me that someone had contacted them and we're told about our situation and they wanted to make it better if even for a day. They brought my sons, toys/clothes, etc. The boys we're SO HAPPY! Then, they gave me a few presents too. And, then a box of food that was Christmas dinner. I told them we had food, so please give it to someone who really needed it. They said they couldn't, this was ALL for US. They wouldn't tell me WHO did this, nor who THEY WERE. I cried through the thought and generosity of these people. Years, later, even right now telling this, I still cry a little. It meant SO MUCH! I NEVER found out who set it up. I'll also never forget it! It took a ton of stress off of my for one day. It meant the world and helped me dust myself off!
phyllis frost December 30, 2011 at 10:38 PM
Does anyone else feel how depressed, unhappy, desperate and sad and jaded people are today?
bob keller December 30, 2011 at 10:56 PM
I do find it odd that k-mart-sears is verging on bankruptcy, and all of a sudden we have these "angels". publicity goes a long ways. I don't doubt it, I just wonder who truly started it.
Lou December 31, 2011 at 12:03 AM
How do we change the world? One act of random kindness at a time!
David Daur December 31, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Bob, Don't be so unsure of your gut feelings. You've hit the nail on the head my friend.
Selma Kahl December 31, 2011 at 12:49 AM
A lady in Michigan on Dec 6. Started this. I read about it on line and ask can you take my info over the phone. They said NO you must visit a kmart close to you. I did and I saw how it worked. The workers behind the desk did not even know what was going on. I ask for the manager and he came over to help with the choice. I wanted someone that would be loosing the presents because of lack of cash. When we found a good subject, the clerk called the person and identified herself as from Kmarts layaway. The customer I could hear on the phone saying I can only pay for one bicycle and not three. When I heard her say that I broke into tears. I said, we have a winner. She ask when was I going to pay. The clerk said right this moment. And you can pick up your bicycles now, but bring one dollar, because she could not close the account. I do not think K mart had anything to do with it because, when you ask them they say why don't you just give to our St Jude's program. And that of course is not as personal. Every Kmart site says, this is not our doing. It was a spark that grew out of love to help an individual and not have corporate charities skim off the top to pay for salaries.
Selma Kahl December 31, 2011 at 01:05 AM
Bob think of it this way. The toys and clothes were already purchased. Kmart is not getting more business, it is just getting the purchases paid for. It could be publicity but the whole idea is not bad. The children are the big winners. They are finding real love from strangers and if they take the lesson to heart, may end up doing the same when they are grown.
Steven R. Russell December 31, 2011 at 04:11 AM
My guess is that this family was simply touched by another sinner, not an angel.
Nancy J December 31, 2011 at 04:24 AM
I guess this is all well and good, but why do people keep having kids they can't afford in the first place? In this case they even adopted a neice because her mother couldn't care for her. Sounds like they really can't either. And why do they feel it necessary to give the kids "everything they want"? This is why I no longer enjoy the holidays. It's all about "having" to buy stuff. I just don't get it. The mom needs to get out and get a job too. Then maybe they could afford all the things the kids want. JMO
Theresa Elliott December 31, 2011 at 09:21 AM
Hello everyone :) I need to spread the word about police brutality and how they still violate our civil rights, even in today's age. You can find my blog on facebook its called phoenix police brutality by madhatterofpeoria. Also if you feel led to donate any money towards a lawyer it is on gofundme.com/by7ag. Please read the blog, its about me getting dragged out of my house by my hair, then later demeaned, mocked, and denied all sorts of civil rights by the phoenix pd and swat team. Thanks! God Bless you!
Selma Kahl December 31, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Nancy J. I wish you all good things in the new year. Really I do. Think good thoughts, it will go a long way towards keeping you happy.
dave December 31, 2011 at 01:01 PM
thats great Les! if we all started doing these things in this country will turn around instantly. I'm on board
paul December 31, 2011 at 02:04 PM
Lets see what you wrote: I need to spread the word about police brutality and how they still violate our civil rights, even in today's age.. It seems you do not like authority or law enforcement. Your civil rights and mine are the same. And don't give me that I am one color nonsense and you are another. I don't care what shade of Crayons you are, we all share the same rights in this country. Obviously you always twist what law enforcement says and create a disturbance therefore get arrested for doing something. I know you did nothing. Nonsense. You obviously did something for law enforcement to take action. You are also soliciting funds on this sight for your own gain. Go back to wherever it was and pretend to be nice. Maybe to POPO will not bother you..
Theresa Elliott December 31, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Explains why you are heartless. I'm sorry you were damaged. Think back on how you felt being a victim, well that's how I feel too.

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