Fort Bragg families surprised to learn layaway balances paid off
By AMANDA DOLASINSKI | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: December 20, 2017
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Twelve military families at Fort Bragg received a special surprise when they were called to the South Post Exchange on Tuesday – the balances for their layaway items had been paid in full.
"Merry Christmas," yelled volunteers, as they pushed gift wrapped carts around clothing racks to present to the families.
The families, summoned to the exchange under the ruse of a customer appreciation event, hugged the "layaway angels" and stood together in amazement. Pay Away the Layaway, a small, national nonprofit organization, paid off about $2,000 of layaway balances for the selected families.
The organization plans to pay off $10,000 in layaway balances for military families across the country.
Sandra Oliver was in disbelief when she learned her $250 balance had been paid. She had planned to make a final payment on her items this week after she received her paycheck.
"It's a blessing," she said.
Oliver was there with her husband, Larry Oliver, who retired from the Army after 24 years of service. Each year, the couple buys Christmas gifts for their eight grandchildren.
The balance paid off for Oliver was for toys for grandchildren, 1-year-old Brock and 6-year-old Arielle Shuler, who were in town visiting this week, she said.
The 12 families were selected based on the balance and items on layaway, said Bill Shoffner, general manager for Fort Bragg Exchange.
Each year for Christmas, hundreds of families put items on layaway, he said. He teamed with the nonprofit to identify families that had put clothing and toys on layaway.
"Our core value is families serving families," Shoffner said. "I'm glad we were able to touch some families' lives and give back to military families."
The nonprofit organization was created in 2011 by Lee Karchawer, after he was inspired by someone who anonymously donated $25,000 to pay off layaway balances at a department store.
For two years, Karchawer collected money from family and friends to make donations to stores in New York City, where he lives. As the organization has grown, Karchawer said he wanted to target military families.
The group went to West Point last week and has other military installations planned later this week, he said.
"It's super important to us as an organization to support the families that keep us safe," he said. "We take a lot of pride in our military and all the families that sacrifice to make our lives easier. This is a very small act of kindness that we are hoping to share to make the holidays special for military families."
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