Woman shocked after receiving unexpected holiday surprise

Company gives woman holiday surprise

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - One woman was trying to surprise her husband for Christmas when she found herself weeks later without the present she paid for.

Laura DiSabato said she wanted someone to make her a wooden shelf shaped like a Christmas tree to display her husband’s Lemax Christmas collectables.

She made a post on Facebook and soon connected with Jeff Whiteis, who told her he did woodworking on the side.

DiSabato said he showed her examples of past work and seemed legitimate.

“Based on all the communication I thought he had been working on the project and he had actually reached back out to me and said he had gone and bought all the supplies, and that he had everything to go to work on the shelf for us,” she said.

DiSabato paid a 50 percent deposit and said he later asked for the remaining cost to purchase more supplies.

“I figured it was around the holidays, he does this on the side, he might not have the cash up front to pay for the supplies. So, I did give him the rest of the money for the project, so I paid him 100 percent for it,” she said.

According to DiSabato, shortly after, he stopped communicating with her and the deadline past. She said after she confronted him about it, he said he would refund her and still build the shelf.

She said over a week went by and she still wasn’t refunded or given the shelf.

DiSabato isn’t the first to be owed money and work by Whiteis.

A previous WMBF investigation found his website design company, JW Designs, owed multiple clients work and money. The Horry County Public Index shows Whiteis and the company owe thousands in judgments.

He previously told WMBF that JW Designs was closed and he was working on resolving issues with previous clients.

Whiteis said he doesn’t advertise for woodworking services and he hasn’t been paid for them previously. He admitted he took a few days to respond but said he doesn’t check Facebook messenger often.

DiSabato said while waiting for the refund, she still wanted to find a way to make the shelf.

“The biggest disappointment is I was trying to do something nice for my husband for Christmas,” she said.

After reaching out to other woodworkers in the area, DiSabato found Sparrow Woodworking.

The company’s quote for the project exceeded DiSabato’s budget so she decided the gift wasn’t going to happen this year.

“Considering she already paid once for it, it was going to be a ton of money for her, so anyway I went home and sort of thought it through and I sort of felt like, I don’t know, I just felt bad about the situation,” said Jerimiah Pensinger, the owner of Sparrow Woodworking.

Pensinger makes custom woodworking and home furnishings for customers, and while he never made a Christmas tree shelf before, he decided to surprise DiSabato with the gift for free.

“The following morning, he called me back and said, ‘Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I have a shelf for you,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘I made you a shelf,’” DiSabato said.

Pensinger said he felt bad about her situation and it was just something he felt like he had to do. DiSabato said she was touched by a stranger’s act of kindness.

“I was speechless. I was absolutely speechless, That is one of the kindest things anybody has ever done for us,” she said.

On Sunday, DiSabato said she was refunded half of her money. Whiteis said he has an agreement to pay the remaining amount by Dec. 26.

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