In August, Betty Hyder put a batch of presents on layaway at Austin’s Norwood Walmart for her two beloved grandsons, Joseph and Clarence Jackson.
On Tuesday, with less than a week to go before the layaway deadline, an anonymous buyer who read about the family’s struggle to make ends meet as part of the Statesman’s Season for Caring campaign walked into Walmart and paid the remaining the $600 balance.
"I was moved by the story of the mother and grandmother struggling to raise two boys with special needs," the reader said. "Paying off the layaway was something I could do to help ease their financial burden and make sure the boys have a merry Christmas."
Kizzy Jackson, the boys’ mother who is raising them in a cramped two-bedroom North Austin apartment with Hyder, her mom, said the family was shocked and elated by the news.
"We are blessed to know that there are kind hearts out there that still care to see the smiles of others," Jackson said.
Jackson, who lived in Austin as a child and moved back in 2017 after flooding in Baton Rouge made it difficult to find a job there, works full-time as a waitress and said the family regularly has to "count our pennies." She said the layaway payoff was especially meaningful because Joseph Jackson will turn 10 next week. The generosity of a stranger will allow him to have a birthday present, too.
Both of the boys have needs that can make parenting a challenge. Clarence, 11, is autistic and nonverbal, showing his personality primarily through art, and Joseph has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety.
The Jackson family is one of 12 families featured in the Statesman’s Season for Caring program, which helps hundreds of families through local nonprofit organizations. They were nominated to the Statesman's Season for Caring by Communities in Schools of Central Texas, a nonprofit that surrounds students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.
"It was such a great surprise to learn that a Statesman reader paid off our family’s layaway bill," said Debra Joiner, senior director of communications for Communities in Schools of Central Texas. "For families that live paycheck to paycheck, a gift like this allows for some relief during the holidays so they can concentrate on making positive memories together. This gift will also help them as they start building and planning for the future."
The family's needs also include a larger house or apartment or assistance with rent at their current apartment; a newer car or a mechanic to fix their current car; laptops for the boys; clothing and shoes for the boys; books for the children; a new couch and other living room furniture; a deep freezer; gift cards to Walmart, Target, Half Price Books and Guitar Center (to purchase piano music); and Visa gift cards to purchase uniforms for the children.
To find out more about the family’s needs or to donate one of the items on its wish list, contact Communities in Schools, 512-462-1771; ciscentraltexas.org.