Anonymous 'Santa' Pays Off $65K in Layaway Balances at Tennessee Walmart: 'A Christmas Miracle'

"The emotional type that I am, I just broke. I just started crying," one shopper told local station WJHL

Walmart storefront. Photo: Gene J Puskar/AP/Shutterstock

Santa Claus visited Tennessee several weeks early this year!

An anonymous shopper came into a Walmart in the city of Bristol on Monday and donated $64,995.51 to pay the balance of items placed on the store's layaway, a spokesperson for Walmart confirms to PEOPLE.

Shopper Lloyd Leonard told CBS/ABC affiliate WJHL that he initially thought it was "weird" that he got a notification that his items had been paid off, but a manager soon let him know about the magic behind it.

"She said, 'Yeah somebody came in this morning at 6 o'clock and paid everybody's layaway,'" Leonard recalled of the manager's message. "'But he wants me to tell you that he loves you, God bless you and Merry Christmas.'"

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Walmart storefront. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Another shopper, April Hilliard, got the same message from management, and told WJHL of her reaction, "The emotional type that I am, I just broke. I just started crying."

"That restores my faith," she continued. "It's like a Christmas miracle. He's Santa, that's what he is. He's a Santa to everyone here."

Store Manager Kris Light tells PEOPLE in a statement, "It's especially touching when customers pay off others' layaways during the holiday season and serves as another example of the generosity our customers show year-round."

"We're honored to play a small role in these acts of kindness and we love seeing the joy it brings to our customers this time of year," Light adds, while a rep for Walmart tells PEOPLE that the donor's primary motive "was to positively affect as many people as possible."

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The Tennessee instance is only the latest example of Walmart layaways being paid off by generous, anonymous "secret Santas" in recent years over the holiday season.

In 2019, a man made a donation at a Walmart in Anniston, Alabama, handing over about $45,000 to cover any remaining layaway balances, Walmart spokesman Casey Staheli confirmed to PEOPLE at the time. The man's gift was accompanied by a note that read, "God loves you. Jesus paid the price," according to ABC affiliate WBMA.

"We see it quite frequently around the holiday season," Staheli said at the time. "There's a lot of kind and really generous people who make a difference."

Meanwhile, in the nearby city of Oxford, an anonymous donor paid off the remaining $25,000 in layaway balances at a different Walmart, the Anniston Star reported. It was unclear if the money was donated by the same man.

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