The spirit of Christmas arrived a few weeks early this year when an anonymous couple spent $10,000 of their own money to help strangers buy toys for their children.

The couple went into the Toys “R” Us store in South Portland on Saturday and told an assistant manager they would pay up to $10,000 toward goods that customers had put on layaway, said Jay Roes, the store manager. They left a credit card as payment, he said.

The $10,000 covered layaway purchases for more than a hundred people, Roes said. Store customers had put a total of about $35,000 worth of goods on layaway, which allows them to pay off a portion of the cost of their purchases every two weeks.

A customer using layaway will typically set aside several hundreds of dollars in purchases, Roes said. Most are Christmas toys bought by parents for their children.

The store applied the donated money toward accounts that had been on layaway for the longest time, Roes said. He said customers typically begin putting items on layaway in October. They need to be paid off and picked up by Dec. 13, he said.

Only a couple of customers whose accounts were paid off had learned of the couple’s generosity by Wednesday, Roes said. He expected more to come in over the weekend and next week as the layaway period draws to a close.

One woman who picked up her layaway items Tuesday “was in tears” after she learned donors had paid off what she owed, Roes said.

Roes said the couple came in Saturday and dealt with an assistant manager. Roes said he met the woman who contributed the money early this week when she returned to retrieve her credit card, but he declined to offer any details about them or disclose who they are.

“It was awesome” to meet the woman, he said.

Others have donated money in previous years to pay off strangers’ layaway orders during the holidays, Roes said, but never has anyone given so much.