Long Beach couple pays off thousands in strangers' holiday layaway bills

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Santa Claus is getting a little help this year from a Long Beach couple, who paid off thousands of dollars in holiday layaway bills for complete strangers.

Steven Harley Bryson grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and says he came from humble beginnings

"An area called Nutbush, and it's not known to be a very wealthy neighborhood," he described.

Bryson moved to Los Angeles, served in the military and started his own company. He owns a credit card processing firm in Torrance and says it's important for the Bryson family to give back.

"Over a decade, we've sponsored the Long Beach Rescue Mission, the Orange County Rescue Mission," he said.

He and his wife Samantha learned about an anonymous donor who paid about $46,000 in layaway bills at a Pennsylvania Wal-Mart.

"We started talking about where, which came up to be Memphis, where Steve's from, and certainly needs the help," she said. "We started looking at a map, where the Wal-Marts are to find one that was closer to where he came from, one of the more important areas to give back to, and we came up with a store in White Haven."

The Brysons said they paid about $30,000 in layaway bills last week and several thousand more this weekend at a Detroit Kmart, surprising dozens of customers.

Steven and Samantha Bryson of Long Beach are seen posing in a photo.

Donnie Couch

"You get goosebumps, you get teary sometimes to be fortunate in life and to be blessed with so many things, to have this opportunity to give back," said Samantha Bryson.

They've gotten messages from grateful families - some lost their jobs, others are just having a rough time.

One message reads, in part:

"Thanks for getting my grandkids' layaway out because I didn't have the money to get it out. I'm having financial problems now but I promise I thank you I can't thank you enough."

The Brysons were going to remain anonymous, but they decided to share their story in hopes of inspiring others to help in any way they can.

"Turn to the person in the aisle and pick up their tab if they don't look like they can do it," Steven Bryson said.

Samantha Bryson says people are in need all year - not just the holiday season. That's something the Brysons say they will focus on going forward.
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