The older lady stood at the front of the Food Lion store on East Main Street late Tuesday with a $40 emergency food voucher.
She was there for a neighbor.
“This woman had absolutely no food,” the woman said. She filled the cart with $40 worth of groceries, just the basics.
But the cashier and even the managers working that day were unfamiliar with the voucher. The employees were nice, gracious, the woman said, but in an era of fraud and scams, the voucher could not be accepted.
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The woman scraped together what little cash she had – singles, some change – and bought a quart of milk and some bread for the neighbor.
The next day, the woman returned to Food Lion with the voucher and her neighbor’s home health aide.
This time, she left with more than milk and bread.
“They treated me great,” said the woman, who does not want to be identified because she is elderly and lives alone. “They showed love.”
Food Lion store manager Ronald Catledge and customer service supervisor Ashley Benz met with the woman, and this time they told her to go get her neighbor’s groceries – the store would honor the voucher. Even though the voucher was still suspect, they couldn’t – they wouldn’t – turn her away again.
“Nobody had ever seen a voucher like it,” said Catledge, who has managed the store less than a month, after coming from a store in Chester. “Our saying at Food Lion is, ‘Count on Me,’ and this lady needed somebody she could count on.
“She told me her neighbor had no food, so there was no way she was leaving the store empty-handed.”
The woman walked around the store’s aisles, picking up again what she had left without the night before.
But Catledge and his employees were not done.
Cashier Jerod Cousar, who could not ring up the sale the day before, and other employees filled grocery bags with meat and deli items, produce and more. They made sure there were even some treats in the bags.
When the woman went through the cashier line, this time sailing through, the employees gave her bags of groceries for the neighbor – and some for herself.
She stood at the front of the store and started crying, saying how she could not believe how nice these people were, to make things right after a mix-up that was nobody’s fault.
That brought some of the employees to tears, too.
Benz, who showed that “customer service” is more than a title to her, said she was proud to help.
Cousar, the cashier, a college student, said helping the woman made him happy.
Besides, he said, “that could have been my grandmother.”
When the woman made her way out of the store – enough groceries to keep hunger at bay – she vowed to come back.
The employees waved to her as she left.
“Any time,” they said, “any time.”
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065