In a spree of charitable holiday giving, local Forsyth County residents raised nearly $35,000 to clear the layaway debts from three Forsyth County Walmart Stores.
Led by State Senator-elect Greg Dolezal and Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow, volunteers spent the evening Wednesday visiting stores, paying off layaway debts and calling local residents to share the good news.
One resident who had a $1,500 layaway debt, burst into happy and almost hysterical laughter at the news that his debt had been cleared, thanking the volunteers over and over.
“Oh my god, that is freaking awesome,” the man said. “Thank you so much, that is so awesome,”
Dolezal, who organized the night of debt forgiveness, said that originally the giveaway was going to be an anonymous event between his friends and family, but after they raised more than $20,000 in about 36 hours, they knew it was something the community needed to have a chance to be a part of.
"It was really just a desire to see families in our community experience the Christmas spirit," Dolezal said. "When someone puts an opportunity out there, for people to help those in need, the community rallies around that in a tremendous way."
Dolezal said that they were inspired by other public figures that did similar debt clearing events, but in the spirit of Forsyth County, they put their own spin on it.
"So we heard some of the stories and I don't have the resources that Tyler Perry or Kid Rock might but collectively our community does,” he said. “So we wanted to bring the community together and give them an opportunity to make this happen and they did.”
Donation to the layaway debt forgiveness event can be made by visiting the North Georgia Community Foundation (NGCF) at www.ngcf.org/forsythlayaway. Dolezal said that by having money go through NGCF provides oversight and transparency to the charity process.
After clearing debts at the stores on Wednesday he said that as long as they keep receiving donations they will keep going clearing store debts until layaway closes.
"I think that this is a marker for our community, it set's our community apart from what people might think from the outside looking in," he said. "We have a really really generous community, but we also have people in our community who are struggling and we don't always see that struggle.”