Sheboygan-based Piggly Wiggly Midwest ran a “Fill a Fridge” contest March 17-31, during which it asked shoppers to nominate military veterans from Wisconsin or Illinois by submitting information about their service and how winning would make a difference to them.
Nominations came in the form of YouTube videos, responses to the company’s website, by email and in person at Piggly Wiggly stores. Shoppers also could submit photos of the nominee through email and Instagram.
Piggly Wiggly Midwest employees read over each entry to learn more about the nominees. Once military service was verified, the final 20 recipients were selected based on their experiences overseas as well as back home.
Piggly Wiggly Midwest contacted the nominees’ families and friends who submitted the forms and began planning the surprises. The goal was to surprise as many of the recipients as possible at their homes with boxes of food and gift cards. Some chose to receive just a gift card that they could pick up at the store or have hand delivered by store management, depending on the wishes of the family.
Among the honorees was the Garrison Heersche family, who received their winnings at the Stinebrink’s Piggly Wiggly store in Pershing Plaza in Kenosha on May 6.
“It’s a big thank you for the service they’ve done for our country,” Matt Stinebrink, owner of three Piggly Wiggly stores in Wisconsin, told The Shelby Report’s VP-Midwest Geoff Welch, who was at the store for the event. “It was a very nice promotion just to help put some extra groceries in their household.”
Sandy Warrick, mother of Garrison’s wife Elizabeth Heersche, nominated the family.
“Garrison got medically discharged unexpectedly,” Warrick wrote in the nomination for the family. “Elizabeth just had their second child, with their oldest only being 2. They were expecting to stay in the military long term and weren’t worried about the economy. Now they are struggling to find employment locally. Elizabeth is in school full time and Garrison will be soon.”
Garrison Heersche served 2007-14 in Clovis, N.M., and in Okinawa, Japan, with multiple deployments.
“Garrison had been overseas from 2011 until he just got out, and unfortunately, Elizabeth and the girls were unable to join him,” Warrick said. “They are learning how to be a family together while dealing with a lot of stress they didn’t prepare for in terms of Garrison’s medical issues, finances, jobs, school, etc.”
The family received a $100 Piggly Wiggly gift card and more than $100 worth of groceries, as well as a Stinebrink’s Piggly Wiggly t-shirt and hat.
Other winners included Tony Solodio of Racine, who served in Vietnam 1968-71. The U.S. Army veteran saved the lives of three people and was himself injured.
Another winner, Kyle McKellips of Franksville, served two tours in Afghanistan 2007-14. He joined the U.S. Army when he was 17 and rose to the level of E4, his sister Maggie McKellips said in the nomination form.
“During his first deployment, he was hurt and suffered back/vertebra damage in an I.E.D. accident,” she wrote. “He doesn’t really talk about his life over there too much.”
Kyle McKellips is married and the father of three children. It was not only stressful being away and at war, but also not being home when major life events were taking place, she said.
“He missed birthdays, births, huge milestones…while being deployed in Afghanistan,” his sister wrote. “While over there, his daughter was diagnosed with infantile scoliosis and our mother with stage 4 breast cancer.
“He just moved back from Fort Lewis in Washington back to Wisconsin and is adjusting to a life away from the Army with his wife and three children. This opportunity would help him, his wife and family very much as this adjustment has not been easy and three kids are a lot to feed.”
Robert Lasch, a young veteran who has been diagnosed with MS, was honored on April 24 at the 5201 Washington Ave. Piggly Wiggly in Racine during a “Vet’s Café” event that takes place each Thursday at the store. Veterans are invited to come each week to support one another, and on that particular Thursday, they were there as Lasch received the surprise.
All told, 20 veterans and their families in 18 cities served by Piggly Wiggly Midwest were selected as “Fill a Fridge” campaign honorees.
“As a company, we are pleased that we are able to make a difference in a veteran’s life,” the company said in a statement. “We are hoping to raise awareness of something that is important to us as a company. Coming home from war overseas is extremely difficult, and as a culture we are becoming increasingly desensitized to the issue at hand. These individuals fought for our country and it is time that they received the praise they truly deserve.”
In the feature photo at top: Greg Duban, Stinebrink’s Piggly Wiggly store manager; Garrison, Elizabeth, Aeris and Sloane Heersche; Matt Stinebrink, owner of Stinebrink’s Piggly Wiggly.