ACROSS FLORIDA — On Monday night, during a reserved shopping hour for front-line workers in the war against coronavirus, Winn-Dixie and other Southeastern Grocers stores in seven states surprised health care professionals and first responders by paying for their groceries.
“Our heroic health care professionals and first responders are on the front line every day as they work tirelessly to make our communities safer, and we want to do our part to thank them,” said Jacksonville, Florida-based Southeastern Grocers CEO and President Anthony Hucker. “Southeastern Grocers is dedicated to being there for the community when they need us the most, and we believe there is no better time than now to show acts of kindness.”
Hucker said the company was following the example of well-known filmmaker Tyler Perry.
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Last Wednesday, Perry surprised Winn-Dixie customers in 29 Winn-Dixie stories in Louisiana by paying for their groceries during the senior and high-risk shopping hour.
“Many customers and store associates were overcome with emotions by this generous deed,” said Hucker. “During an interview following last Wednesday’s act of kindness, Perry challenged others to also pay it forward. Moved by his words and actions, we were inspired to give back.”
Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket paid for the groceries of front-line workers in seven states during the Monday night shopping hour.
“We were inspired to pay it forward and hope to inspire others so we can continue to lift spirits during this difficult time,” said Hucker. “So many people are suffering in the communities we serve today and it’s critical to be kind. As a community, we are stronger together and will win together with kindness.”
“So I ran out to the supermarket for the health care and first responder hour to pick up a few things,” said Melanie McDonald Stalbird of Tarpon Springs. “I was greeted by the manager who thanked me for my service. As I was checking out, the cashier said, ‘Winn Dixie just paid for your groceries.’ I got choked up and thought they were kidding. Sure enough they paid close to $100 for my entire cart. This was by far one of the nicest gestures I have experienced in a long time.”
“I walked out of Winn-Dixie tonight in tears and in awe,” said Kalely De Armas, a nurse from Seminole and the mother of three young children. “Not only does our grocery store hold special hours just for first responders and health care workers, they paid for my entire grocery bill tonight as a way to give back and say thanks.”
In addition to Southeastern Grocers giving back to health care professionals and first responders, the SEG Gives Foundation donated $250,000 to Feeding America in March to help its network of food banks provide much-needed support to those currently facing food insecurity throughout all communities in the Southeast.
The grocer is also offering more than 5,000 positions to individuals who have been affected by restricted working hours or job loss as a result of mandated store and restaurant closures due to the coronavirus.
All BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie grocery stores will continue to extend shopping hours on Mondays and Tuesdays to provide a special shopping hour from 8 to 9 p.m. dedicated to health care professionals and first responders.
Additionally, seniors and high-risk customers are invited to shop the first hour of operations, Monday through Friday, as a continued safety precaution. The grocer asks all customers to remain respectful of this time given to the elderly and other high-risk community members to allow them the comfort of purchasing necessary products in a safe environment.
To help alleviate safety concerns, Southeastern Grocers has modified hours to allow employees to perform a deeper, more comprehensive cleaning process and it has installed Plexiglas partitions at all store registers, customer service desks, pharmacies and liquor store counters.
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Customers are asked to maintain a two-cart-length distance throughout the store and at checkout by using floor markers set to encourage social distancing. Customers are also asked to continue using touch-free payment options at all BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie registers.