The Short of It
Since 2011, Pay Away the Layaway has been paying off Christmas balances for families, and this year, founder Lee Karchawer acted on feedback that the organization should help during the back-to-school season, too, when families often have a hard time affording new school clothes and needed supplies.
"To be able to do this during back-to-school time—when families are struggling to buy the things their kids need to do well in school—this is perfect," Karchawer said of the organization's new Layaway for Learning program.
Karchawer said he and the organization's board of directors chose a Kmart in Baltimore as the first location for the new program because the city is still recovering from rioting after Freddie Gray's death in police custody. The Kmart location was boarded up during the riots because of threats of looting, and many of the store's customers are struggling financially. Manager Mark Weatherby says workers put layway items back on shelves almost daily when customers don't pay them off.
The organization paid off layaway balances that totaled a little more than $3,000 for nearly 25 families, which was all of the layways the store had.
"These people, they thought they owed $200 on their layaway, and school starts next week," Weatherby told Today Parents. "Now, instead of 'Where am I going to get the money?'—all of a sudden, they don't have to worry. It was very heartwarming to see. They were dancing—dancing in the aisles! Everybody was hugging. It was great!"
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