Jonathan Neveu and his girlfriend Katie Schulte have made it a habit to go to the Hyde Park Winn-Dixie for their weekly grocery store run. Every Monday and Tuesday, the chain remains open for an extra hour after 8 p.m. just for first responders and medical workers.
It just feels safer to shop with fewer people around, especially since Neveu and Schulte have both already been exposed to the coronavirus at work. He transports patients via helicopter and ambulance, and she’s a nurse on the pediatric floor at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa.
On Monday night, they loaded their cart with steak, chicken and other ingredients to meal-prep their way through another week of long shifts. When the couple made it to the checkout, a store employee told Neveu to put away his wallet.
The $313 bill had been taken care of.
Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, bought groceries for every health care worker and first responder that came to shop during the extended hour Monday night. The surprise happened in all seven states where Southeastern Grocers has stores.
The act of kindness was inspired by filmmaker Tyler Perry, who bought groceries for shoppers at 29 Louisiana Winn-Dixie locations this past Wednesday during the hour blocked off for elderly and high-risk shoppers.
“We were able to provide free food and essentials to more than 1,000 community heroes right here in Tampa Bay and the response was overwhelming,” said Joey Medina, regional vice president for Winn-Dixie, in a written statement. “Both our customers and our associates were overcome with tears throughout our stores.”
Winn-Dixie declined to say how much money total was donated to cover the cost for Tampa Bay area groceries.
Neveu knew something was up Monday night when he saw another shopper walking out with a smile on her face. He had no idea that he was about to get an entire week and a half of meals paid for.
It touched him to hear Winn-Dixie employees thanking him and Schulte for their service as they checked out.
“We told them we also appreciate them too, because they’re on the front lines,” Neveu said. “I also hope they’re doing that for their employees as well, because I think that they deserve it."
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