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Attention Kmart Shoppers

May 23, 2012

Good things make you feel good, right? I believe that’s true, so did you hear the one about Winchester, Kentucky, businessman Rankin Paynter? Winchester is about 20 miles east of Lexington, Kentucky, and about three hours north of Harlan, Kentucky, where the FX Network’s show Justified takes place. So Mr. Paynter recently went to his local Kmart to pick up some supplies for his jewelry exchange business and he saw a sign alerting shoppers to the fact the store would be closing in two days. Paynter was surprised how much inventory was left in the store being so close to closing, and when he asked a clerk what they do with all the leftovers he was told that all remaining inventory in a store at closing is bought up by Kmart “power buyers”. I don’t know what a “power buyer” is, but my guess is a “power buyer” is maybe a buyer for an off-price retailer like Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, Filene’s Basement and Big Lots. Anyway, Rankin Paynter decided to become a Kmart “power buyer” and six hours and $200,000 later, he had purchased the store’s remaining inventory.

Yeah, so what. Rich people are always buying stuff, right? Hold on, here’s where it gets good.

Rather than turn the items over for an estimated $30,000 – $40,000 profit, Rankin Paynter donated everything to Clark County Community Services. Paynter, 77, an unassuming man in a t-shirt, short pants and tennis shoes, said in his thick Kentucky accent, “It’s time to give back, ‘ya follow me?” In addition to the large donation, Mr. Paynter has also rented a building to store the items until they can be used by the county this winter.

Rankin Paynter is no stranger to poverty and to ‘going without’. As a child he had to tie rags onto his feet during the winter because all he had were summer slippers.

Judy Crowe, Executive Director of Clark County Community Services said the donation, which was the largest the agency has ever received, was unexpected. She said this year will be the first time her agency will have enough coats, gloves and hats for all the children they serve during their Operation Happiness program.

If you wonder why a person would spend $200,000 to help people he doesn’t know, Rankin Paynter answers that question by saying, “Just cuz a lot of them is needy is no sign they’re bad people and if I can help them, I do.”

My thought: this is a happy story that gives me some optimism that maybe the world isn’t really the messed up place I think it’s becoming. Sure, not many people – or maybe I should qualify that as ‘not many people who care’ since I think a good number of people have a lot of money – have $200,000 laying around to buy up department stores for charity, but I don’t know if those generous bulk donations are what we should focus on. Yes, the $200,000 donations are very important, but so are the $1.00 donations. Maybe even more important in a way.

If you’ve read this far would you like to do me a favor? No, you don’t need to get your check book or give me your Paypal ID, just close your eyes and take five seconds and think one good thought. Just one good thought to put a little bit of positive energy out into our universe.

If you’re interested in Clark County Kentucky’s Operation Happiness:
Operation Happiness, P.O. Box 574, Winchester, Ky., 40392.

Local stuff near you:

If you’re interested in reading about another good-deed-doer, check out Ronnie Greene, the “Year ‘Round Santa”.

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