Payless has been a staple of malls everywhere, offering one-stop shoe shopping for the whole family, with tons of options for feet of all sizes.
The company announced in February this year that it would be shuttering its US and Puerto Rico locations, according to USA Today. While some stores might remain open a little longer than others, the company stated that over 2,100 stores would be closing their doors for good.
That was bad news for future shoe shoppers, but great news for people looking to snag a good deal in the meantime. Carrie Jernigan was one of the latter, and she headed to the mall with her kids in tow to find some last-minute deals in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
It was Jernigan’s daughter who first sparked the idea that turned into a charitable endeavor. According to KFSM-TV, the kind-hearted girl spotted a pair of shoes she knew a classmate would love.
“She has the biggest heart, and she said ‘There is a boy in my class that loves avengers, and his shoes are too small, could you buy him these?,’ and I was like ‘of course,'” Jernigan said.
“As I was checking out I just said ‘how much for the rest of the shoes in the store,’ almost joking and I could see the clerks, her face, her wheels start to turn and she finished checking me out,” she said. “She said ‘can I have your number?'”
Things blew up from there. Jernigan took to Facebook after it all went down to explain what happened and ask for people’s assistance.
“Next thing I know a regional manager is on the phone asking me if I seriously want the whole store,” she wrote. “I was thinking, ‘what have I done — Shawn’s going to kill me’. We ended up making a deal for the shoes left which was approximately 400 pairs of shoes.”
Four hundred pairs of shoes is a lot of shoes… but it was only the beginning. When she returned to the location the following day to pick up her 400-shoe haul, she got some surprising news.
“The next day I show up to begin boxing up all these shoes and while we are there the store clerks learn that a new delivery has come in with 100s of more shoes. Harper and Campbell immediately say we can’t leave those shoes too. I said, we will open a few boxes, if it’s kids shoes we will try and get it. We begin to open the boxes in the back of the store and in the loading dock — box after box are kid shoes. Champions, JoJos and every different type of princess and light up shoes you can think of.”
“12 hours, 95 big boxes, a huge trailer and approximately 1500 pairs of shoes later these 3 excited kids got to buy out the store.”
The mom asked for the public’s help in figuring out a way to distribute their goods to those who needed them. An update to her Facebook post reveals that plenty were willing to help.
“First, let me say this response has been amazing,” she wrote. “What I learned is that lots of towns, churches and businesses are doing Back to School events to load kids up with school supplies and clothes! I had some local businesses and people want to get one going in Alma and I think that is a great idea. So what we have decided to do is have a River Valley Kickstart for these kids as they head back to school.”
“The school [has] offered the Alma Middle School gym for us to use on August 10th from 2-6pm. We have a great start with all these shoes but we need some donations where we can buy other needed supplies!”
With over a thousand pairs to choose from, no doubt kids will be able to get just what they need. While Jernigan is excited to be able to help out their community as a family, she’s also proud of her children.
“I always tell my kids, if you ask them what they want to be when they grow up they say be kind, and so I don’t care what they do in life as long as they are kind and good people,” she said. “And so it just reiterates to me that their hearts are in the right place and if it’s in the right place they can do amazing things.”
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