JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After being battered by four devastating storms in six weeks, supermarket operators in Florida and neighboring states have had to work around the clock to get their stores open, while at the same time providing relief services to the communities in which they operate.
At Winn-Dixie Stores here, the company recently extended its "Even it Up" fund-raising program through Nov. 30, which is considered the end of hurricane season. The program, which began Aug. 14 with the landfall of Hurricane Charley, was originally set to expire last week.
It allows customers to round up their purchases to the next highest full dollar amount -- or make a larger contribution if they prefer -- as a donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. As of last week, Winn-Dixie had raised more than $80,000 through the program through customer donations, according to Terry Derreberry, a spokeswoman for the company. She said Winn-Dixie itself had donated another $50,000 to the fund.
"We live and operate in these communities, and Winn-Dixie is always a good neighbor," she said.
The company undertook several other efforts in recent weeks to help get its stores back open and to provide relief to the communities in which it operates.
The company has donated more than 150,000 gallons of water in Florida alone, along with 1.2 million pounds of ice in Florida and Alabama in partnership with poultry supplier Sanderson Farms, Laurel, Miss.
Winn-Dixie also last week donated 19,000 pounds of chicken to the town of Vero Beach, Fla., to help feed disaster-relief workers there.
The company also has been donating gift cards to the National Guard for use both by families of troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and by troops who are assisting in the disaster relief effort.
After Hurricane Ivan -- the third of the four hurricanes to hit the Southeast this season -- spawned tornadoes in North Carolina, Winn-Dixie donated a truckload of water and a truckload of ice each to the towns of Franklin and Waynesville in that state.
The donations of water and ice are in addition to gifts of diapers, baby food and cleaning supplies that Winn-Dixie has provided to communities hit by the storms.
Winn-Dixie also made available some of its shuttered stores in Alabama and Florida for use by agencies involved in the relief effort to provide shelter and food service for relief workers and to use as staging points for the relief work.
In addition, the company donated the use of its warehouse in Sarasota, Fla., which had recently been closed, to the Red Cross to use for relief efforts. The few Winn-Dixie employees who had been working at the warehouse to wind down operations there have stayed on to assist the Red Cross, Derreberry said.
Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., which has stores throughout the Southeast and whose sister, chain, Kash 'n Karry, is based in Tampa, Fla., also has been active in its hurricane relief efforts. After already donating truckloads of water, ice and other supplies to various communities in the Southeast in the wake of the previous three storms, last week the chain trucked another 151,200 pounds of ice, 16,800 gallons of bottled water and thousands of packages of snack foods to Duval and Clay Counties in Florida for victims of Hurricane Jeanne.
After Hurricane Ivan swept through Food Lion's home state of North Carolina, the chain donated truckloads of cleaning supplies and food to the Manna Food Bank of Asheville, N.C., and the American Red Cross. It was the fourth in a series of donations Food Lion made to western North Carolina communities in the wake of the storms. Other deliveries have included paper towels, garbage bags, paper plates and cups, plastic utensils and nearly 15,000 gallons of bottled water.
Despite the massive relief effort, the chain has been able to keep its stores well-stocked, according to Jeff Lowrance, spokesman, Food Lion.
"The fact that we've been able to be so responsive with donations shows that we were prepared not only to meet the needs of our stores, but also the needs of the relief efforts," he said.
Birmingham, Ala.-based Bruno's, which itself was forced to shutter more than 100 stores after Hurricane Ivan swept across the Florida panhandle and through Alabama and Georgia, last week launched a customer-donation program to encourage shoppers and employees to contribute to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Through Oct. 16, customers can request to scan a special Red Cross card at the checkout to donate $1 or more to the relief effort. Bruno's said it would match up to $25,000 in donations to the fund.
The chain, a division of Ahold USA, Chantilly, Va., said the program was launched in response to a plea for help from the Red Cross after the three previous storms had depleted its funds.
"So many of our customers and teammates have been affected by the storms over the past month, either with high winds, tornadoes, flooding or power outages, and we want to step up to offer a helping hand," said Bruce Efird, executive vice president and general manager, Bruno's, in a prepared statement.
At the peak of the storms during the past few months, the Red Cross opened 168 shelters in Alabama, 47 in Florida, 25 in Georgia and 79 in Mississippi, according to Bruno's.
Through the first three storms, the Red Cross had housed more than 340,000 storm victims and served more than 6 million meals.