Supermarket chain pays it forward by buying health care workers’ groceries

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Grocery stores across the nation are working overtime to keep shelves stocked and people's needs met.

But a few of them are also making the lives of some essential workers a little easier during this uncertain time.

One local grocery chain paid it forward to those working on the front lines with a surprise at the checkout on Monday.

Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of BI-LO, Fresco y Mas, Harveys Supermarkets, and Winn-Dixie stores, covered the grocery bills of thousands of health care professionals and first responders Monday night.

Local nurse Gigi Walker benefited from the gesture and said it couldn't have come at a better time.

“(It) was definitely a moment of happiness for me, because I've never had anything like that happen to me,” said Walker, who works at Memorial Hospital.

Walker said while she was checking out Monday night, the manager of Winn-Dixie in Ponte Vedra Beach told her the store was covering the cost of her groceries.

“I was ecstatic. I mean, I was almost crying, Walker said. “It was like the sweetest thing anybody's ever offered me.”

Walker said the past few weeks haven't been easy on her job.

"It's been very up and down. A lot of us have been cut hours. So that's hurt a lot of us,” Walker said. “Thank you so much Winn-Dixie. It was at the Solano Road here in Ponte Vedra and it was just, you know, so nice and supportive. Because us nurses don't get the respect sometimes, and it really means a lot to me and my fellow nurses."

Southeastern Grocers was inspired to pay it forward to these members of the community, after filmmaker and actor Tyler Perry paid for the food and essentials for elderly and high-risk customers in 29 Louisiana Winn-Dixie stores last week.

Winn-Dixie and the other Southeastern Grocers stores have extended shopping hours on Monday and Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. to give health care professionals and first responders a special shopping hour.

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