The wave of generosity started about five days ago.
Anonymous benefactors began stopping into the Kmart on Tilghman Street in South Whitehall and paying off the layaway balances of families picked at random, said Nichol Drozd, the store's assistant manager.
On Monday, a woman paid off four layaways at the store, for a total of $600, Drozd said. The woman was among at least 10 people who paid off store layaways that included children's winter boots, games and children's clothing, putting down at least $1,500. More than 10 families have been helped.
"It is very touching," said Drozd, who then had the joy of calling the familes who had been "touched by an angel."
The response? "First, they're in shock," she said. "Then they end up in tears."
The "angels" at the Kmart in South Whitehall are the latest examples of a trend being seen across the country.
The trend may have started in Michigan. Patch first reported on layaway angels on Dec. 16. In recent days, stories of anonymous layaway payoffs have been reported from South Carolina to Iowa and Wisconsin to California. The epidemic of giving is also cheering families in New Jersey.
In the Lehigh Valley, layaway angels have also been busy in Bethlehem.
"It's been an organic development," Shannell Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Sears Holdings Corp., which owns Kmart, has said. "We don't promote it. We're just trying to keep up with the reports that keep coming in."
Those reports have been increasing daily.
"This is just so heart-warming for these families during the holidays," Drozd said.
The woman who stopped at the Kmart on Tilghman Street on Monday and paid off four layaways told Drozd she just wanted the families to have "a very Merry Christmas." Drozd said many of the benefactors, who range in age, say they hope the families will "pay it forward," meaning that someday they choose to repay the good deed by doing something good for someone else.
Drozd said the layaways paid off have included delinquent accounts, in which the items were close to being put back on store shelves.
She said the families helped will often thank her.
"It's not us," she tells them. "It's these angels coming in. We just get to be the messenger."