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WOW helps pay off Christmas layaway purchases

WOW helps pay off Christmas layaway purchases

What sometimes gets lost amidst the blizzard of radio, television and internet advertising so ubiquitous this time of year is that Christmas is not solely a season of getting, but also a season of giving.

One local service group hasn’t lost sight of that, and last week, members surprised local shoppers by giving them a most unexpected gift. 

Women of Waynesville is a nonprofit organization founded in 2012. Dedicated to supporting Haywood County women and children, it raises funds throughout the year for organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Haywood Schools Foundation, Mountain Projects and the Pigeon Multicultural Development Center, and has donated $11,000 toward such causes in 2016 alone. 

Last weekend, WOW members spied on shoppers lining up at the layaway counters at Walmart and Kmart over the course of two days.

“It was exciting to watch, as families approached,” said WOW board member Katie Higgs. “We would approach them, strike up a conversation and try to determine what they were there for.”

Once they were able to identify parents purchasing Christmas presents for children, WOW members stepped in to help pick up the tab.

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“Most were very gracious and very grateful,” said Higgs. “Some were confused about what we were trying to do or who we are, so that gave us a great opportunity to spread our message.”

Over the course of two days, WOW spent a little over $1,000 on about a dozen shoppers, giving them $100 — or sometimes less, if their layaway balances were lower. 

“People were buying everything from electronic learning materials to bicycles,” Higgs said. 

Although national economic indicators have generally been trending upward, Western North Carolina has lagged in its recovery from the Great Recession. In a county like Haywood where 17.6 percent of the population lives in poverty and wages haven’t kept pace with housing costs, every little bit counts. 

“We just wanted to help people during the holidays and advance our mission of supporting women and children in Haywood County,” Higgs said. “Also, although we make many donations throughout the year to organizations like REACH where we don’t always get to see the impact, one of the reasons our members voted to do this is they wanted to be able to observe that direct impact.”

In a larger sense, WOW hopes to continue making a positive impact on the community as well as making appearances on Santa’s not-so-naughty list. 

“All the money we raise stays here locally,” Higgs said. “Any organization or nonprofit that supports women and children in Haywood County, we try to support them.”

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