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Anonymous donors play Santa at LI Walmart

Two anonymous donors armed with $500 cash swept into the Farmingdale Walmart Sunday morning and paid off the layaway accounts of random shoppers who had been saving up for months to buy toys and other Christmas presents.

Michael Balestrieri, a customer service manager at the store, said a couple in their 50s who gave their names only as David and Diane went to the layaway counter and said they wanted to pay off strangers' layaway accounts.

"Basically, he explained to me, 'My wife and I had a really good year. God has blessed [us] and we want to give to other people,' " Balestrieri said.

After checking with the store's manager, Balestrieri went through the list of about 60 outstanding layaway orders, searching for those with lots of toys, at the couple's request. "Customers that . . . were trying to give their children a better Christmas," Balestrieri said.

The couple pulled out $500 in cash and paid off about half a dozen outstanding layaway accounts, then signed each receipt "Merry Christmas from Diane and David."

Later, Walmart employee Vanessa Cardoza called each of the customers to tell them that their layaway accounts had been paid off.

"I had one customer repeat her name over and over to me, saying, 'Are you sure?' " Cardoza said. "She was shocked."

Word spread around the store about the couple's gift.

"They didn't even know the people. It was truly unconditional," Balestrieri said. "It was basically unconditional love for your fellow man."

Sunday's good deed wasn't the only one at the Farmingdale store. On Saturday, another anonymous donor paid off a woman's layaway account, amounting to roughly $158. The customer, when told of the gift, began crying on the phone, Balestrieri said.

"They're doing a fantastic thing," he said. "If they have the ability to help other people, they are actually doing that. They are using that ability to the best possible way they can right now."

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