Late in the afternoon on December 6, John Hensley called a meeting and shared the news: We were going to pay off $10,000 of layaways at local Walmarts. The catch? We were doing it tomorrow.
So the next day, armed with Santa hats, reindeer antlers, and the massive weight of company credit cards, 12 lucky employees left the office to participate in our #HLGHolidayHelpers initiative.
1. Beech Grove
Our first stop was the Walmart in Beech Grove. Our southside group of volunteers had the opportunity to pay for the layaways of people waiting in line as well as those in the computer system.
This was the only Walmart that was expecting us — John had called ahead to make sure it would be okay — and the women behind the counter were incredibly kind, helpful, and hilarious as we kept track of how close we were to our $2,500 limit.
The people we got to meet in line were wonderful. Many of our employees were deeply affected by their stories and shared tearful hugs with them. It was a truly moving experience.
2. Washington Street
Next, we traveled to the Walmart on Washington Street. Our eastside group of volunteers got to pay for people in line at the layaway counter exclusively. It was incredibly humbling to see people’s faces light up when we announced what we were doing.
At one point, two technical issues collided: Walmart’s computer system started to malfunction, and our credit cards started getting declined. While one volunteer called our main office to get the credit card situation straightened out, another volunteer graciously put a couple layaways on her personal credit card to keep the line moving.
Because of these technical problems, we were able to spend a lot of time speaking with the people in line. One woman tearfully told us we were an answered prayer. Another called her sister to let her know the good news. It was powerful to hear people’s stories and how they were excited to give gifts to their loved ones.
Thanks to our employees back at the office, our cards were up and running in no time, and when Walmart resolved its technical issue, we were happy to pay a few more layaways before moving on to the next location.
3. Keystone Avenue
Next, we traveled to the Walmart on Keystone Avenue. Our northside group of volunteers included some employees from our Fishers office. The layaway counter was pretty empty at this Walmart, so we paid almost exclusively for people in the computer system.
We got to pick the people who would receive our help from Walmart’s folders, so we alternated between large amounts and small amounts to have the most impact. The people working at Walmart were once again incredibly kind, and they started making calls to the individuals whose payments we had covered.
We thanked the Walmart team for all of their help, and then it was off to our final stop of the day: Lafayette Road.
4. Lafayette Road
Our final team of volunteers met up at the Walmart on Lafayette Road on the westside of Indianapolis. We got to pay for people standing in line as well as people in the system, but there was also one special person we got to meet.
The people working at Walmart asked if we’d be willing to pay for an employee’s layaway. They said she was an incredibly strong person who had fallen on hard times and had just canceled her layaway that morning. They called her to the counter, and when we told her we were covering her layaway, everyone began to cry. It was truly moving and a privilege to witness.
Lessons from the Layaway Counter
Ask anyone at Hensley Legal Group what their favorite part about 2018 was, and they’ll likely say #HLGHolidayHelpers. Even for our employees who didn’t get a chance to volunteer, it was a special day because it was a manifestation of two of our most important values: generosity and service.
The goal of this initiative was to quietly do some good — to sneak in, Santa-like, pay off some gifts, and disappear. We didn’t send out any press releases or post about the initiative beforehand on social media. (There wasn’t even any mention of this initiative on our website until April 2019.) But someone we had helped alerted the local news, and we decided to come clean and let people know what we had done.
Our hope by telling this story is that you’ll see how one small act of kindness can make a big difference. Even if we had only gone to one Walmart, or only paid off one person’s layaway, it would have been worth it. Whether or not we’re able to do #HLGHolidayHelpers again next year isn’t certain, but we hope that other companies, organizations, and even individuals will feel inspired to share whatever resources they have over the holiday season in the years to come.