Giant Food of Landover, Md. presented $87, 282 and 16,500 healthy Snack Packs to the USO of Metropolitan Washington as a result of its March in-store giving campaign.
The donation took place during the "Your USO Meal" lunch at the Fort Belvoir USO Warrior and Family Care Center.
The in-store campaign raised money through $1, $3 and $5 donations, and the Snack Packs consist of a bottle of water, hand sanitizer, health bar, pretzel bar, fruit snacks and drink mix sticks. USO plans on giving the Snack Packs out at their airport locations, centers and at events they support such as organizational days, deployment and homecoming ceremonies, and Family Readiness Group events.
"The snack packs will make our efforts to go out and support units much easier over the next few months and allow us to go out to many more events that we wouldn't be able to help out at otherwise," said K.J. Stevens, USO Warrior and Family Care Center, programs coordinator. "Their monetary donation is really an amazing contribution and will make a huge difference in the programming we can offer."
The lunch was catered by Red, Hot and Blue so Soldiers had the option of pulled pork, chicken, macaroni and cheese, baked beans and tossed salad to enjoy.
Steve Stoner, Giant Food of Landover, Md. vice president of human resources, and Terry McGowan, Giant Food of Landover, Md. director of quality assurance, spoke during the check presentation. McGowan and Stoner are both former servicemembers, and McGowan still serves in the Marine Corps Reserves. Both are pleased to contribute any form of help to the military.
"We are the nation's capital grocer. Being in the DC-Metro area, you've got the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir and such a huge military community," said Stoner. "There's nothing better than being the nation's capital grocer and to give back to the community. This is our customer and we're going to take care of our customer."
The donation is appreciated by the USO, according to Elaine Rodgers, USO of Metropolitan Washington president and chief executive officer, as are the Snack Packs since they go along with healthy living activities USO is starting.
"This is such a terrific relationship with Giant," said Rodgers. "We are working with well known chefs who are going to be coming in and doing cooking classes for us. We are working with the military professionals so we are creating the right kinds of programs."
Having spent four years at Fort Carson, Colo. as an Armored Cavalry Scout, Stoner is partial to the USO having utilized their services during his time in the Army.
"I can remember going off to boot camp and sitting in the USO for seven hours before the flight got there," said Stoner. "If you've never served, you don't understand that brotherhood. So, to be able to take care of those brothers and sisters that I once shared the sand and dirt with, it's very personally rewarding."
The donation from Giant and the free lunch provided by the USO was appreciated by the Soldiers who attended Monday, like Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Towle, 701st Protective Services Battalion.
"You always get a little choked up when someone from the community supports you," said Towle. "It makes you feel good."
Making sure Soldiers stay fit and ready to defend the nation is important to Stoner, which is another reason he's excited about Giant's relationship with the USO.
"As you send troops to combat and training exercises, you need to be fit and ready to fight," said Stoner. "It's about water, not coke, not Twinkies, but something that's going to give you sustainable energy so you can look after the well-being of our nation."