September 05, 2014
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Assistant Store Director at Winn-Dixie Store No. 2338, Joe Hughes, left, offers special beer to customer wanting to comfort his son who is fighting leukemia.​

What started as a simple Facebook message turned into a labor of compassion and teamwork, as more than 15 associates between New Orleans and Florida pitched in to transport beer more than 700 miles, into the hands of an ailing customer.

Roy Hebert’s son, James Hebert, has leukemia. Winn-Dixie went above and beyond the traditional role of a grocer and helped Roy get James his favorite beer to brighten his days during this difficult time.

“What a happy son I have,” said Roy. “Because of your efforts, he is enjoying his favorite beer. Please accept my thanks. No other store will see me except Winn-Dixie.”

Earlier this summer, Cristina Stebbins, Winn-Dixie social media manager, received the request for the beer on the Winn-Dixie Facebook page.

The beer, Blackened Voodoo lager, isn’t sold anywhere near Melbourne, Fla. where Roy and James shop. Stebbins found the beer is local to the New Orleans Region, and soon Winn-Dixie’s New Orleans team joined in the hunt.

LaDana Williams, public relations field account manager, worked with Margaret Heier, administrative assistant to Regional Vice President Karena Niblett, to find that Winn-Dixie Store No. 1329 in Metairie, Louisiana carried Voodoo. Pete DeRocha, store director at Store No. 1329, wanted to do more to contribute, so he worked with a vendor to get James a Voodoo poster as well.

Williams and DeRocha soon learned that due to restrictions on shipping alcohol, the beer couldn't be shipped to Florida. But, the New Orleans team didn’t give up. James Dunton, regional operations excellence specialist who works from Pensacola, Fla., was in Gulf Port, Mississippi visiting a store. And he was headed to Jacksonville later that week.

Williams drove the beer and poster to Gulfport, where she left them with Store Director Michael Moore. He passed them on to Dunton, who brought them to Robert Onstead, senior manager of digital and social media, at the Jacksonville Support Center.

From there, it was smoother sailing. Onstead, who had been tracking the progress of the beer from the beginning, passed the items off to Taryn Mantilla, community involvement specialist, who was in Jacksonville for a store grand opening. Taryn worked with District Director, Jennifer Short, and Rich Klenotich, store director at Winn-Dixie Store No. 2338 in Melbourne, Florida, Roy and James’ neighborhood store.

The beer's more than 700-mile journey came to an end when Stebbins, who had kept in communication with Roy and James via Facebook, let them know that James could finally relax and enjoy his favorite beer.

"I am extremely proud of our team for going the extra mile for Roy and James," Onstead said in an email message. "This story truly captures the essence of BI-LO Holdings making an impact on our local community."

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