Sixteen families in Auburn, Maine, received surprising and heartwarming phone calls last week saying an anonymous stranger had paid their layaway bills.
The "Layaway Angel" told the staff at her local KMart that she was terminally ill and just wanted to do something nice before she died, reports say.
In only 15 minutes she paid off 16 balances, totaling more than $3,000.
"I wanted to cry," Joyce Beane, the store's manager, recalled.
“It was that powerful. It takes something like this to make you think, 'Oh, my word. If I were facing the end of my life, would I take time to reach out and help people?'"
People who saw the anonymous woman said she was in bad shape.
Witnesses told the Lewiston-Auburn Sun that she looked weak, leaning on shelves as she moved through the store after completing her generous errand.
"This lady proved there are still good people out there," Rina Thibeau, one of the lucky 16 people touched by the "Back to School Angel" told WCSH6.
It turns out Thibeau herself is one of those good people too.
She uses Kmart's layaway program to buy gifts for needy children in her community as part of a charity she started with friends called Christmas Smilez.
She says they helped at least 85 families in the past year.
"So many other kids, this woman is helping and she doesn't even know it," said Thibeau of her nameless aide. "When I talk about it, it's like a dream."
Wherever and whoever she is, the woman has company.
In 2011, a man from Laguna Beach, Calif., paid $15,919.61 worth of bills for strangers at a Kmart. Similar instances also occurred in five other states.