A Fort Bliss Main Exchange employee helps Jeanette Maiten, the spouse of a retired Soldier, with the items Maiten had on layaway for her grandchildren, ages 8, 5, and 4 months. Maiten said she was grateful to learn her layaway balance was paid off by national nonprofit Pay Away the Layaway, Dec. 19, 2019, at Fort Bliss | Photo by Michelle Gordon
On the evening of December 18, 2019, 11 Fort Bliss families received phone calls from the Main Exchange store manager who told them to be at the store at 1 p.m. the next day, because they had items on layaway.
Most of them were concerned.
“They didn’t say anything else and I was thinking, ‘maybe I need to go ahead and pay this layaway off,’” said Jeanette Maiten, the spouse of a retired Soldier, who had items on layaway for her grandchildren, ages 8, 5, and 4 months.
Fort Bliss Soldier and mother of two, Sgt. 1st Class Kiera Williams said, “I had completely forgotten that I had a layaway.”
The families gathered toward the entrance of the store the next day, where Store Manager Paula Bradford told them their layaway balance had been paid off with donations collected through the national nonprofit, Pay Away the Layaway.
Pay Away the Layaway started in December 2011 with the mission of inspiring hope and spreading kindness by paying off layaway balances for families filled with gifts and essentials for kids.
Each year they partner with retailers around the country, including The Exchange and Navy Exchange, to pay off layaways for families.
Bradford said this was the second year Fort Bliss was chosen by the program as a recipient of donations.
“They asked us how many toy layaways we had and they paid off the balance,” she said. “We had 11 families with toys or gifts for children on layaway and the total was $2,760.”
“It’s a good gesture and it’s really nice,” said Army spouse Lisa Kohler through tears.
Maiten agreed. “This means a lot,” she said. “My son has been struggling and he’s had a hard time, so this really means a lot to us.”
Pay Away the Layaway founder Lee Karchawer said he enjoys helping thousands of families around the country each year, but he said helping military families feels even more special.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be able to help the families that sacrifice so much for us, and to let them know how important they are and how much they mean to us.”