This family bought out a local Payless store to provide shoes for kids in need

Carrie Jernigan, a lawyer and a mom of three, walked into Payless ShoeSource expecting to score some deals on shoes for her three children. Payless had announced store closures due to bankruptcy, so it was the perfect time to save on some shoe purchases for the entire family. Little did she know that she’d end up walking away with more shoes than she could have ever prepared for.

It all started when her 9-year-old daughter saw a pair of shoes she thought a classmate of hers would like.

“[My daughter] 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,'” the mom told CBS News.

It spiraled out from there.

“As I was checking out, I just said, ‘How much for the rest of the shoes in the store,’ almost joking,” Jernigan told CBS News. “And I could see the clerk’s, her face, her wheels start to turn and she finished checking me out. And she said, ‘Can I have your number?'”

You can hear the mom tell the story of how the day’s shopping events went down in this video from the CBS Evening News YouTube channel:

Later, she received a call letting her know that, if she wanted, she could have what was left in stock. It turns out the store had just received a new shipment, so they had about 1,500 pairs of shoes in stock. According to Money, it was about $21,000 worth of merchandise.

Jernigan agreed to buy what the local Alma, Arkansas, store had in stock so she and her family could give back to children in need within their community.

“I wanted these kids to have brand new shoes for the start of school,” the mom told Money.

payless shoes photo
Getty Images | Joey Foley

While she was happy to help those in need in her community, she was especially proud that the idea stemmed from her daughter. After all, inspiring your kids to grow up to be kind is all any mom could hope for.

“If you ask [my kids] 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,” the mom told KSFM. “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.”

A Community Effort

Not only was the mom inspired by her kids’ kindness, but the entire community has been, too.

Apparently, since buying out the store, many people in the area have asked to donate shoes to the cause. To make sure these shoes get to those who need them, the family is organizing a back to school bash before school is in session again.

Payless Shoes Files For Bankruptcy
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

“It’s just becoming a huge community effort,” Jernigan told Money.

The bash begins at 2 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the Alma Middle School Gym, KSFM reports. The publication states that the family will be partnering with Kibler Baptist Church and will also be giving away school supplies.

Who would have known a simple trip to Payless could have turned into an event like this?

Payless Gives Shopping Event with Anthony Munoz Foundation
Getty Images | Joey Foley

Here’s hoping these shoes help out plenty of families this school year!

Payless In Bankruptcy

In part, this act of kindness was possible because Payless ShoeSource is unloading all its stock as it closes all 2,600 stores in the U.S. and Canada, along with its online store. The discount shoe store chain, which was founded in Topeka, Kansas in 1956, still runs several hundred stores in 40 countries, and those are not being affected by the closings.

Liquidation sales have been going on since February. Payless first filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017, when it closed 400 stores. Though it reorganized and cut millions of dollars in debt, it remained in trouble. It filed for bankrupty protection again in February, claiming it still had $700 million in debt.

Changes in the retail industry over the last few years have favored retail giants such as Walmart and Amazon, as well as smaller local businesses, leaving mid-scale retailers out of the loop. Payless specifically has suffered from competition from TJ Maxx and shoe retailer DSW.

That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line for Payless, however. Other retailers, such as Toys ‘R’ Us, have made it back from the brink in one way or another. Perhaps a year from now we’ll see a similar situation for Payless — you never know!

Beleaguered Toys R Us Battles For Survival
Getty Images | Jack Taylor

In the meantime, the silver lining is that because the store was trying to get rid of its stock, it helped one community provide shoes for families in need. Not a bad way to go out!