Christmas came early for more than three hundred customers who had items on layaway at Walmarts in central Illinois. On the last day to pick up their layaway items, they were greeted with the news that their bills, totalling $80,000, had been paid in full by a Secret Santa. The Secret Santa turned out to be Jimmy John Liautaud, Founder of Jimmy John’s.
“I could not believe it,” said Tanesha Blissit, who had nearly $1,000 worth of layaways waiting for her at the store.
Jimmy grew up in central Illinois and wanted to spread the love and joy of Christmas this season. He couldn’t think of a better way than by ensuring customers got the gifts they’d planned to purchase for the holiday. Jimmy’s generosity moved some customers to tears.
“I’m happy,” Stella Barrera, a Walmart employee, said. “These are tears of happiness right now.”
Barrera had put eight bikes on layaway to donate to children in the community for Christmas. Jimmy’s donation ensured eight kids will have new bikes to ride when the snow melts in the spring.
“I know the feeling of struggling and I know the feeling of seeing my kids happy when they got presents when they were little,” Barrera said. “So I wanted to give back and help a kid that would enjoy these bikes too.”
Jimmy’s generosity also helped customers, like Tanesha Blissit, continue spreading Christmas cheer. Since she no longer had to pay for the layaway items, she donated $300 to a local television channel’s “Toys for Tots” campaign to make sure others will have presents to open on Christmas morning.
“There’s somebody out there who needs it more than I do. I want to pay it forward,” Blissit said.
Since the items have been paid off, the Champaign, Urbana and Savoy Walmarts will be holding the items until customers can pick them up, even though the layaway deadline has passed.