Terminally ill woman pays off strangers' layaway orders

4:37 PM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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AUBURN, Maine (NECN) - Some struggling families in Central Maine got a sweet surprise last week. 

They all received a phone call from the Auburn Kmart's layaway department informing that an anonymous stranger had just paid off their bill.

"Everybody wants to go back to school with new clothes," said Store Manager Joyce Beane. "Now 16 more families can do that." 

The families had all fallen behind on their payments.

Enter the Back to School Angel.

"She was here about 15 minutes. She paid off 16 the layaways in cash, about $3,000. Then she said I'm not feeling well I need to leave," recalled Beane. 

The woman told the staff she was terminally ill and just wanted to do something nice for others before she died. . 

Rina Thibeau, an Auburn grandmother who works nights as a janitor, was of the 16 people who learned she'd been touched by the Back To School Angel.

She says she still can't get over it.

"It takes all kinds of people in this world," said Thibeau. "This lady proved there are still good people out there."

It turns out Thibeau is one of those good people too.

She uses Kmart's layaway program to buy gifts for needy children for a charity she started with friends called Christmas Smilez.

She says they helped 85 families in Androscoggin and Oxford Counties last year. 

"So many other kids, this woman is helping and she doesn't even know it," said Thibeau. "When I talk about it, It's like a dream."

Its not the first time a layaway angel has touched down at the Auburn Kmart. 

In 2011, a man and his two children came in just before Christmas to pay off every outstanding layaway balance in the store. 

When word of that act of kindness got out, Store Manager Joyce Beane said offers of help came pouring in.

Beane say she hopes this angel's actions cause people to reflect on what they would do if they knew their days were numbered "and I think if we all, once a day or once a week, thought of doing something kind, there would be a loft less strife in our lives," she said.


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