A woman bought nearly $20,000 worth of merchandise in more than six hours of shopping that left entire aisles at a K mart bare, and gave it all away to the poor.

Then store officials, who had called the woman's bank repeatedly and been assured that her checks were OK, learned she couldn't cover the bill after all.The unidentified woman was hospitalized for psychiatric observation, police said Tuesday.

The incident began Monday morning when the woman pushed her first shopping cart up to a cash register.

"When it was just two or three carts, I figured, all right. It's OK," assistant manager Fred Pearl said. "When she brought three more up, we started calling" her bank.

When store officials called after the total hit $10,000, the bank's computers were down. The bank then contacted the woman's husband.

He called the store to say his wife only had about $3,000 in her checking account and demanded that the store cut his wife off. It did.

By then, a security guard who would identify himself only as Mark held a cash-register tape more than 30 feet long with purchases totaling $19,200.

Employees and customers said the woman told them she wanted to help needy children have a good Easter. The store's Easter section and other aisles were stripped bare.

Volunteers of America was called and arrived with a truck. It was filled and driven away. Keith McNiel of Volunteers of America said he also saw some people load up vans and cars with clothing and other goods and drive off.

"She offered to buy me clothes too and a bicycle if I wanted one," McNiel said. "She said she just wanted to help people out."

The woman enlisted the help of some store customers, too. "Obviously she was filling baskets faster than we could check them out," Pearl said.

Volunteers of America returned an estimated $10,000 worth of merchandise, store employees said.