The rouse started with a call to customers on Friday.
“'Just a layaway event' that’s how we phrased it,” Burlington Coat Factory Operations and Customer Service Manager PJ Seguljic said.
Customers who lined up at the East Hartford store Saturday morning, eager to take home merchandise they've been paying off in installments, arrived to much more than a "layaway event."
“Your layaways have been paid away,” Seguljic announced to the group.
Virginia Green, of Bristol, was reduced to tears. After paying for her granddaughter’s college, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get her layaway paid off in time for Christmas.
“I’ve just been praying all week like God I gotta get this layaway out. I don’t know how I’m gonna do this,” said Green.
The good cheer was donated by the non-profit organization, Pay Away the Layaway. The national organization choses families who have made regular payments on their layaway accounts. About 90 percent of the gifts on a customer's list must be for children.
In total, $1,100 in layaway items were paid off for 17 families at the East Hartford store on Saturday. The average bill per family was $100.
“You don’t expect something like that. My God, it’s a blessing,” said Gloria Bautista of Columbia, Connecticut.
“Nothing really ever happens for me,” said Jannea Stone, of East Hartford.
Stone’s cart was full of clothes for her eight year old daughter — more of a need than a want.
“It actually helps so that way I can just get her the other things I wanted to get her, but I was like oh well I don’t think I’ll be able to get them this time because I still have that layaway to pay off,” Stone said.
The "layaway angels" gave hugs to families in disbelief as they watched their wish lists rung up for free.
“It’s great to see the families have some of that stress taken away so that they can really enjoy their holidays,” volunteer Angelina Dabrowski said.
Click here for more information about Pay Away the Layaway.