A 9-year-old girl who asked if she could buy a pair of shoes for a classmate who couldn’t afford his own inspired her mom to take advantage of Payless’ going-out-of-business sales and buy out all 1,500 shoes at a shuttering location to donate to other kids in need.
Carrie Jernigan, from Alma, Arkansas, now has a basement filled with boxes and boxes of shoes, in addition to hundreds of backpacks, socks, books and various back-to-school products other do-gooders in her neighborhood have gathered, in preparation for a community donation event next month.
“We’ve got a bounce castle, face-painting, balloons,” Jernigan told InsideEdition.com. “Anyone who wants to come that day, we’re going to load them up with school supplies. Get these kids all ready for school that begins three days after that.”
But Jernigan, who is also the president of the local school board, said she had no idea her small good deed would become a huge community effort to support each other.
“I was just looking for a place to set up on one of our roads to hand out boxes of shoes to people – it seemed like a good idea at the time,” Jernigan explained. “People kept trying to donate more money, and now it’s turning into a huge back-to-school bash.”
She explained it all started earlier this summer, when she brought her three kids to a local Payless store to buy some sandals before they went away on vacation. Jernigan said she knew for a while the chain was closing and hoped to get some good deals for her family.
As they prepared to check out, her eldest daughter Harper, 9, told her mom she noticed a pair of "Avengers"-themed sneakers.
“She named a little boy and said, ‘His shoes looked worn out lately, and I don’t think he can afford a new pair of shoes,’” Jernigan recalled.
Jernigan immediately agreed to purchase an extra pair of shoes, then jokingly asked the clerk how much it would be to buy out their stock.
The clerk, however, hoped she was serious and took down her number to pass along to a manager, who eventually called her and made a deal on the remainder of the shoes.
“After some back and forth, we made a deal to buy out the rest of their shoes,” Jernigan said.
She and her kids went to their warehouse the following day with a truck and boxing tape, and spent the rest of the day packing up the shoes. Even though she made a deal with the store to buy out about 350 boxes of kids’ shoes, the shop got a new shipment that same morning, and Jernigan ended up leaving with about 1,500 pairs of shoes, more than 1,000 of which were kids’ shoes.
The family spent the next several weeks sorting through the shoes, and Jernigan eventually posted on her Facebook, asking friends if they had any idea where they could drop them off.
But the community response was overwhelming, and the next thing they knew, they had neighbors dropping off more supplies, donating money and offering services, all inspired by her daughter’s simple request to help out a classmate in need.
“She’s really, really giving and has a huge heart,” Jernigan said.