Staring down a burning grill outside Fire Station #1 in San Antonio, H-E-B Partner (employee) Jeff Cedillo flipped burgers as hungry first responders crowded around the pit. For Cedillo, cooking for emergency personnel on 9/11 is a regular occurrence, something he looks forward to every year as part of H-E-B’s Helping Heroes. (See photos below.)
“As a brother of a first responder I have a true appreciation for what they do and the sacrifices they make,” said Cedillo, a 26-year Partner who runs the meat market at the McCreless H-E-B plus! in San Antonio. “Every day they put their lives on the line for us. I’m incredibly honored to come and do this, especially since these guys are some of my best customers.”
Launched in 2005, H-E-B’s Helping Heroes is a companywide initiative where H-E-B Partners across Texas give back to first responders, pitching in at their neighborhood fire stations to commemorate 9/11. On this day of service, more than 2,800 H-E-B Partners honor these brave men and women for their selfless dedication and steadfast service to communities throughout the Lone Star State. This annual program is part of H-E-B’s ongoing support for emergency personnel in the more than 300 communities the company serves.
This year, H-E-B adopted more than 700 fire stations statewide, including more than 200 in Houston, 186 in Central Texas and 120 in San Antonio and West Texas. For the initiative, H-E-B Partners provided each fire station with a $150 H-E-B gift card, prepared more than 5,600 meals for first responders and performed 8,400 volunteer hours to spruce up locations and provide other means of support.
Just east of downtown San Antonio at Fire Station #1, as lunch was being prepared, the San Antonio Zoo brought some animal friends to visit, including a small owl and 12-ft.-long yellow python, which several firefighters held. H-E-B also presented the San Antonio Zoo with a $10,000 donation that will go toward providing free zoo admission to first responders in September.
In The Woodlands, all eight area fire stations participated in a cooking competition to see which team could make the best slider. H-E-B Partners provided the fire stations with H-E-B gift cards to purchase ingredients for the competition. In the end, Fire Station #4, which won with its Brooklyn Chicken Parmesan slider, was awarded a $250 H-E-B gift card.
And in Austin and McAllen, while first responders were served meals and had their emergency vehicles washed, firefighters provided life-saving direction, giving hundreds of H-E-B Partners CPR training and fire safety instruction.
“Each year, Helping Heroes gives our Partners a chance to give back to the courageous first responders who dedicate their lives to our communities,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B group VP of public affairs, diversity and environmental affairs. “For 15 years, this essential program is part of our steadfast commitment to the brave men and women who serve our communities each and every day.”
Helping Heroes provides a meaningful way for H-E-B Partners to acknowledge and support first responders. This community service project recognizes Sept. 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, paying tribute to the emergency personnel who risked and lost their lives during the World Trade Center attack.
“Every year on 9/11 we remember the lives lost. Our thoughts are with the victims, and all the people who made the ultimate sacrifice to save others that day,” said San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood. “All of us know that when we come into this profession there will be great sacrifices, so we appreciate H-E-B supporting and paying tribute to those who risk their lives every day for their communities.”