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Stranger pays for Durango woman’s groceries, lets her keep the change

Laurel Hall says one act of kindness led to several more
An anonymous man paid for Laurel Hall’s groceries last week at Walmart when her check wasn’t accepted. He also let her keep the change from a $100 bill, which she used to buy lockers for homeless campers at Purple Cliffs.

During a routine grocery store visit last week, Durango resident Laurel Hall, 87, experienced an act of kindness that altered the course of her day.

After working her way through the aisles in her electric cart Friday at Walmart, Hall entered the line to pay for her groceries. Once at the cashier, she paid with all the cash she had, but was still $50 short. So, she wrote a check. However, Hall had recently been the victim of a bank scam and her bank had given her temporary checks. The cashier ran the temporary check through the machine, but it was denied.

The cashier tried multiple times, but each time, the check was denied. Conscious of holding up the line, Hall apologized profusely to the man behind her, who said he was in no rush. They even struck up a conversation, and the man informed Hall his wife had recently come back from the hospital after fighting off COVID-19.

In her scooter, Hall wheeled over to the service center with a store manager to figure out the problem. The check still didn’t work.

“I was just horrified,” Hall said. “I didn’t know what to do because I had these groceries, I didn’t have enough money to pay for them in cash and I had a check that wouldn’t go.”

The man who she had struck up a conversation with behind her in line approached the service desk after he checked out and asked the store manager how much Hall’s check was for. On hearing the outstanding amount of $50, the man took a $100 bill out of his wallet and handed it to the cashier.

The cashier returned the man’s change, and “he took that money and put it in my hand,” Hall said, choking up during an interview with The Durango Herald. “And, then, he said, ‘Pay it forward.’ It still makes me cry.”

The man wouldn’t tell Hall his name, only that he lived in Aztec.

It took a couple of minutes for Hall to collect herself, as his kindness overwhelmed her. However, she soon knew how she intended to use the $50 gift.

Hall has been active in supporting the homeless campers at the Purple Cliffs site, organizing a number of clothing drives and routinely going by the camp to drop off different items the campers need. She thought it would be fitting to “pay it forward” to the campers at Purple Cliffs.

Hall drove to the La Plata County Thrift Store and found four footlockers she thought would be especially useful in the winter months.

“The people over there (at Purple Cliffs) have nothing. They have no place to keep their things dry,” Hall said.

She approached the cashier at the thrift store with four footlockers, each priced at $25, and told the cashier what she planned to do with them. The cashier told her he’d sell them all to her for $60.

With the help of the thrift store employees, Hall loaded the lockers into her car and drove to the camp at Purple Cliffs. The residents of the camp helped her unload the lockers and assisted her up the steps, “because I’m kind of old,” Hall said.

Hall asked the leaders of the camp to ensure two of the lockers went to women. The campers were grateful, and it all started with an act of kindness at Walmart.

“He was a saint,” Hall said of the man.

Summarizing her interactions during the day, from the man at Walmart to the cashier at the thrift store who gave her a discount, Hall said, “There are good people.”

Hall said she plans to organize more clothing drives for homeless residents. She said she can be reached at 799-1465 if anyone wants to donate items.


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