Arkansas mom buys all shoes in closing Payless store to donate to kids in need

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An Arkansas mother bought all of the shoes from a closing Payless ShoeSource store to give to children in need before the school year begins.

Carrie Jernigan, a mother of three, told Fox News she bought nearly 1,500 pairs of shoes. She did not disclose how much she paid but told Fox News her receipts indicated she saved about $21,000, although she paid just a fraction of that number.

Carrie Jernigan, a mother of three, told Fox News she bought nearly 1,500 pairs of shoes to give to children in need before the school year begins. (Carrie Jernigan)

"I'm in the schools a lot and where I live we have a very high poverty rate," Jernigan, the president of the Alma School Board, told Fox News. Alma is between Fayetteville and Fort Smith.

"My immediate thought was, this could put so many shoes on kids that would not have new shoes to start back to school," she added.

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The buyout took place in May after Jernigan’s oldest daughter asked to buy a pair of Avenger shoes for her classmate during a shopping trip that was initially intended to buy shoes for Jernigan’s children, she said.

Jernigan said as she was checking out, "I jokingly said to the clerk, 'How much would it cost to buy the rest of the shoes in here?' Next thing I know a regional manager is on the phone asking me if I seriously want the whole store," she wrote on her Facebook page last Monday.

"I was thinking, 'what have I done?'"

She added that her husband was "going to kill" her for making the big purchase.

"We ended up making a deal for the shoes left which was approximately 400 pairs of shoes," she wrote.

Jernigan said the next day she went back to the store to put all the shoes in boxes and while she was there, store employees had learned that a new delivery had come in with hundreds of more shoes.

Carrie Jernigan said as she was checking out, "I jokingly said to the clerk, 'How much would it cost to buy the rest of the shoes in here?' Next thing I know a regional manager is on the phone asking me if I seriously want the whole store," she wrote on her Facebook page. (Carrie Jernigan)

She wrote that her children "immediately" said they could not leave those shoes behind.

"I said, 'we will open a few boxes, if it's kids shoes we will try and get it.' We begin to open the boxes in the back of the store and in the loading dock - box after box are kid shoes," Jernigan wrote on Facebook.

"Champions, JoJos and every different type of princess and light up shoes you can think of."

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She went on to write, "12 hours, 95 big boxes, a huge trailer and approximately 1500 pairs of shoes later these 3 excited kids got to buy out the store."

Jernigan wrote that they had planned to give the shoes away before school started.

She added that the "response has been amazing" saying local businesses, churches and residents wanted to hold a Back to School event where hundreds of shoes and other donated items, including backpacks and school supplies, would be handed out to help students and families in the River Valley, which is in the western part of Arkansas. The event is scheduled for August 10.

Carrie Jernigan said because of generous donations that totaled more than $1000, she was able to buy another 250 pairs of shoes and socks to give away at a Back to School event next month. Jernigan told Fox News people have donated an additional $3,000 to cover the cost of more shoes for the event. (Carrie Jernigan)

In another Facebook post on Saturday, Jernigan wrote, "I have received probably 200 messages from just local moms and dads telling me they are coming to get shoes and will get there as early as they can to [sic] make sure they get a pair."

She added, "So many in our community are desperate for new shoes to send their little ones back to school in. If you could see the messages it would break your heart."

Jernigan said that a man who wanted to remain anonymous handed her $1,000 and told her to "just spend it on those kids!"

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She said that because of that generous donation and others, she was able to buy another 250 pairs of shoes and socks to give away at the event next month. Jernigan told Fox News people have donated an additional $3,000 to cover the cost of more shoes for the Back to School event.

"Be praying for this event to reach so many in need in our area," Jernigan concluded.