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Laguna's own Santa Claus

David Wilson recently made a more than $15,000 donation to pay off layaways at the Costa Mesa Kmart.

December 22, 2011|By Joanna Clay

For many, the last few days before Christmas might be spent putting the final touches on gifts.

However, to countless others around the country, it's a time of stress as families count their paychecks, hoping to have enough to buy each child at least one gift for the holidays.

David Wilson, a Laguna Beach resident for 30 years and the owner of South Coast Toyota in Costa Mesa and Toyota of Orange, recently solved the woes of tens, if not hundreds, of families when he decided to pay off 260 layaways at the Kmart in Costa Mesa last weekend. His donation totaled $15,919.61.

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After watching a news segment about a Midwesterner who had donated to a Kmart, Wilson considered his wife, Holly, whom he still had to get a gift for, and realized he had found it.

"I grew up poor on a farm in Iowa," he said. "That we're able to do this for others is just a terrific award in and of itself."

As for his wife, she said it's the best gift she's ever received, he said.

Tricia Lawrence, manager of the Kmart at 2200 Harbor Blvd., answered Wilson's call Dec. 16.

She asked him a few questions, such as what his budget was, and he said he wanted to make a significant contribution.

"His generosity was just incredible," she said.

Lawrence spent that day calling customers, letting them know that their gifts were taken care of.

"I was told I was lying I don't know how many times," she said. "There were so many emotions. It's just hard to describe — from happiness to surprise and shock."

Since Wilson's donation, the Costa Mesa Kmart has seen additional donations come in. Since Dec. 16, she said, nearly $25,000 has been donated to the store.

"In all my years of Kmart, and I've been with them 17 years or so, nothing like this has happened," Lawrence said.

The Wilsons have been overwhelmed by the response to their generosity, and many of the families have written to them in the past week. David Wilson admitted he and his wife cried Wednesday morning, taken aback by the effect the contribution has had on so many.

He said he received an email from one woman who told him that she and her husband recently lost their home and their car. Last week, her husband also lost his job and she was about to go to Kmart to cancel her layaway because they could not afford gifts for their family of six.

"The idea that someone that they don't know would do this ... it made them realize they should never give up," Wilson said. "You never know what's around the corner."

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay

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