Staff and customers alike were moved to tears by the event.
Toyworld in Bendigo usually doesn’t have Wednesdays like that.
Scott Mills, who owns the store, detailed how the couple came into the shop and spoke of wanting to assist those who were struggling.
They then proceeded to pay off the outstanding bills of 82 families.
“They told us a story about how they were in hardship when they were younger and struggled to pay their bills ahead of Christmas,” Mr Mills said, speaking to The Age.
“They always swore that if they ever found themselves in a position where they could help, they would. After the crap year we’ve all had, they wanted to do some good.”
COVID has meant a particularly hard year for families.
Many have been stretched thin to cover necessities and unable to cover the debt of the lay-bys, to bring the toys home to their young ones.
The mystery couple’s generosity has meant Lego, dolls, toy prams, remote control cars, Barbies, board games and countless other Christmas toys are now all going home to excited kids for Christmas morning.
The local couple asked Mr Mills to keep their identity anonymous and to not disclose how much they had spent.
Due to the multiple factors at play, six lockdowns and the pulling back of taxpayer-funded COVID-19 disaster payments, the Victorian Council of Social Service foresees a challenging Christmas season for many families.
Chief Executive for the Council, Emma King, said, “Frontline services are seeing a whole new wave of people coming in to access support for things they never needed support for, such as food and electricity bills.”
King added, “Do you put food on the table or do you put the lights on? [Those choices are] always magnified at Christmas time because people go without an awful lot so they can provide for their families.”
Published recently by Good Shepherd and Roy Morgan, their report finds that 40% of the Australian labour force to be “the new vulnerable”.
It details how two-thirds of this demographic had their working hours reduced throughout the pandemic and nearly 50% saw their business intake slow or halt completely, while two-fifths were stood down for a period of time.
At Toyworld Bendigo on Wednesday, the joyful tears were just beginning, with staff crying as they conveyed the good news with families over the phone.
Staff shared how one mum was still in quarantine after coming into close contact with a COVID-positive person, which resulted in her losing casual work at a cafe. She wasn’t able to get welfare and had been concerned about how she would be able to afford Christmas.
Another was so moved by the news that she had to pull over to the side of the road to gather herself.
A father explained to staff that he only had $10 left in his bank account after losing his job, and that the couple’s generosity meant that his twins would be able to enjoy a birthday present in a few days.
Store owner Mr Mills also highlighted that it’s been a challenging year for the retail industry as well, and that the cash injection into his business would do wonders, after enduring many sleepless nights and worry during the pandemic.
There have been other instances of kind-hearted strangers paying off lay-bys at Toyworld stores across Australia.
Similar instances of generosity have occurred at toy shops in Pakenham in Melbourne’s south-east, in Canberra, and Gympie and Burleigh Waters in Queensland, said Donna White, the brand manager for Associated Retailer Limited, which owns the popular Toyworld trademark.
“There are some very kind people out there,” Ms White said.
Jack Heath, Philanthropy Australia chief executive, said that anonymous generosity is especially kind due to recipients not feeling indebted to anyone.
Continuing he said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this sort of thing happened more?”
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