Macon men raise funds to pay off Christmas toys on layaway

wcrenshaw@macon.comDecember 20, 2013 

Men raise funds to clear Christmas layaways for random people

WARNER ROBINS -- Some people’s Christmas became a lot merrier Friday thanks to the efforts of a couple of Macon men and some donors.

A week earlier, John Roberts read a story online about an effort known as Layaway Santa. People across the country were raising money to pay off layaway accounts for random people before Christmas, and he thought it sounded like a good idea. He enlisted the help of Chris Tsavatewa, and they started a Facebook page for the effort.

“At Christmas time there’s something about random acts of kindness that appeal to me more than any other time of year,” Roberts said. “I just wanted to do something.”

In one week they raised more than $900. On Friday, they walked into the Toys R Usstore in Warner Robins and paid off the layaway accounts of seven people. They were given the receipts, and all of the items were for toys such as tricycles, dolls and wagons. They also wrote individual Christmas cards for each one.

All of the layaway accounts had been canceled for nonpayment. The store contacted the people Friday to tell them they could come get their toys.

Mary Zampa, of Macon, was at the store shopping when she stopped to ask why two men at the customer service counter were having their picture taken. When she heard about their effort, she gave them $20 on the spot.

“I think what you are doing is wonderful,” she told them.

Tsavatewa said he never expected they would raise that much money in one week. They had 23 individual donors, some of whom they didn’t even know. They plan to keep up the Facebook page and do it again next year.

With more lead time they figure they can raise a lot more money.

There is no national organization for Layaway Santa. In some cases individuals simply walk into stores and pay off others’ layaway accounts.

According to news reports, someone went to a Wal-Mart in Texas last week and paid off every layaway account in the store, amounting to about $2,000 on 21 accounts. A week before that, an anonymous donor paid off $27,000 in layaway accounts at a WalMart in Ohio.

Layaway is a purchasing method commonly used by people who lack the cash or credit to buy something outright but want to get it while it is on sale or before it sells out. They put down a percentage up front and pay the rest later.

The accounts paid off Friday ranged from $50 to $283, and each included multiple items.

The men ended up with $52 left over, and with no account in that amount to pay off, they planned to give it to Kids Yule Love, which buys Christmas presents for needy children.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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