Exchange shopper Martha Alaniz and granddaughter Jolina Tynes pick up winter clothes for Alaniz's three grandchildren Oct. 14 at the Fort Hood Exchange. Alaniz was one of 52 lucky shoppers notified this week that their Exchange layaway balances were paid in full by the nonprofit Pay Away the Layaway. Also pictured, Fort Hood Main Store Manager Teresa Palu.

More Than 50 Exchange Shoppers’ Layaway Balances Paid in Full

Exchange shopper Martha Alaniz and granddaughter Jolina Tynes pick up winter clothes for Alaniz's three grandchildren Oct. 14 at the Fort Hood Exchange. Alaniz was one of 52 lucky shoppers notified this week that their Exchange layaway balances were paid in full by the nonprofit Pay Away the Layaway. Also pictured, Fort Hood Main Store Manager Teresa Palu.

Exchange shopper Martha Alaniz and granddaughter Jolina Tynes pick up winter clothes for Alaniz’s three grandchildren Oct. 14 at the Fort Hood Exchange. Alaniz was one of 52 lucky shoppers notified this week that their Exchange layaway balances were paid in full by the nonprofit Pay Away the Layaway. Also pictured, Fort Hood Main Store Manager Teresa Palu.

Since 2017, the Exchange has invited a handful of lucky shoppers to their local Exchange for a surprise reveal that their layaway balances had been paid off by the nonprofit Pay Away the Layaway.

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, however, it was uncertain that Exchange and Pay Away the Layaway would be able to do the same this year. But thanks to quick thinking, the big reveal took place for 52 lucky winners—this time online.

“Pay Away the Layaway had already done a few presentations with other retailers via Zoom, so they were able to do the same for us,” said Oliver Westphal, Store Operations program specialist. “We weren’t able to surprise them in person this time, but we still got to see the looks on our lucky winners’ faces.”

Families from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland; Maxwell Air Force Base; and Forts Hood, Campbell, Bragg and Lewis were asked to join one of three Zoom calls held Oct. 13, 14 and 15. Told to expect a “special surprise,” they didn’t know their layaway balances—totaling $10,000 in back-to-school purchases—were going to be paid off until the call’s big reveal.

Among the lucky shoppers was Killeen, Texas, resident Martha Alaniz, whose husband retired from the Army after 22 years. Alaniz, whose layaway balance included winter clothes for her three grandchildren, said the payoff comes after a particularly trying decade in which she lost her 18-year-old son, Joseph Anthony Alaniz, in a 2014 car accident.

“When they finally revealed the surprise, I let out a scream and was like, ‘Oh my God, thank you, thank you,’” Alaniz said. “I’m not lucky like this most of the time, so I’m thankful for every blessing.

“It makes me so happy that someone would do this for someone and not even know the circumstances they’re in. That makes it even more special.”

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