One Little Rock woman surprised local families by paying for over $28,000 worth of groceries at two Kroger locations this week.
Ashley Ann Jones, 35, got the idea to surprise people by paying for their groceries after hearing news stories about how long lines were at food banks and how many were running out of resources, leading people to have to show up early in order to get food, she told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Having grown up in Scott, and now living in Little Rock, Jones said she is familiar with areas that are underserved and could benefit from help.
She purchased groceries at the Kroger on East Roosevelt Road in Little Rock, where she said a lot of people have to work two to three jobs to make ends meet, and the Kroger near Camp Robinson Road in North Little Rock. Jones' father served in the military, and a lot of military families and senior citizens frequent that store, she said.
Joseph Mayo, one of the managers at the East Roosevelt Road store, said the purchases were "a great Christmas gift" for customers.
"They'd come up and we'd say your groceries are paid for and they'd be like 'Are you serious? Really?'"
Some were teary-eyed -- they'd "never had anything like that happen to them before," Mayo said.
Jones, who owns a business production company and social media strategy firm, said she does a holiday bill-pay every year for her followers on social media.
This year she gave away $35,000 in cash increments of $250, $500 and $1,000 to help her followers with bills, she said. She set aside $30,000 to help in the community, adding she opened a register at the grocery stores and didn't think to count how many families she helped serve.
Jones said the holidays to her mean "family, love and a time to rest and reflect." She typically throws a Christmas party for her family and friends where they sing karaoke and play games.
"It is a bummer that you can't do your regular traditions, but at the same time [I] think of how blessed we are; none of us passed away, we all still have employment, we all still have a roof over our heads," she said.
This year she's spending the holidays with her parents, her sister and her nephew, and said she will drive by friends' houses, or they'll come by one-by-one to do gift exchanges.
"It's inconvenient, but we can have our Christmas party in July if we want to," she laughed.