Dozens of Christians from an Evans church are making their way downtown to Ruben’s Department Store, where they’re paying down the layaway accounts of strangers this Christmas.
At least 25 people from Wesley United Methodist Church have come into the store since Monday, said Jeff Gorelick, owner of the store.
“They just keep coming, more and more of them,” Gorelick said. “It’s an incredible thing they’re doing.”
Some pay $20 to an account, but others close out the account entirely.
“They paid a lady’s layaway yesterday. It had $115 left for a handbag she had been paying on for four months,” Gorelick said. “She started hugging me and crying. It was the greatest thing.”
Gorelick said he got a call at the store a week or two ago. The church was on the other line, asking if they had layaway.
“I told them we do layaways all year round,” he said. “I said, ‘We’re locally owned. We’ve been here 114 years.’ They said, ‘Thank you, you’re just what we’re looking for.’”
On Tuesday, a churchgoer came in to pay the account of a man who put a hat on layaway last Christmas. The man had been paying $5 a month all year long, in hopes of getting it out for this Christmas, Gorelick said.
“They came in and paid the $57 that was left,” he said. “I called him and said, ‘Santa’s come early, and paid for your Christmas gift.’”
If the church ever decides to repeat the program, Gorelick said he wants to be the first to donate.
“The owners, we’re Jewish, but we think this a wonderful thing for the holiday season,” he said. “It’s a rough world out there.
"They’re doing a good thing.”