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    Heritage's Dairy Stores Reaches Out to Soldiers in Iraq

    New Jersey convenience store chain teams up with father of Marine killed in Iraq to collect phone cards for servicemen and women.

    WOODBURY HEIGHTS, N.J. -- For three generations, Pat Heritage's family business has been a part of the southern New Jersey community. Naturally, she said, when she saw the opportunity to give something back, not only to the loyal customers she serves, but to one heroic individual that died fighting in the war in Iraq, the company sprung into action.

    Thorofare, NJ.-based Heritage's Dairy Stores, which operates 36 convenience stores not far from the Philadelphia border, is teaming up with the father of a Marine killed in Iraq who wants to make it easier for soldiers overseas to keep in touch with their families back home.

    William McGinnis, a regular customer at Heritage's, is spearheading an effort to collect prepaid phone cards to be sent to U.S. servicemen around the world. His motivation comes from personal experience. The last time McGinnis talked to his son, Brian, was before Brian left for Iraq in February. Brian McGinnis, 23, and two other Marines died in a helicopter crash in southern Iraq on March 30.

    Heritage's, which opened its first convenience store (pictured) in 1946, agreed to put donation containers in its 36 stores and is sponsoring a promotion in which customers can buy one calling card and get another free, the stores' vice president, Pat Heritage told Convenience Store News Thursday. A certain percentage of the proceeds will go toward purchasing calling cards for the soldiers plus customers are encouraged to donate the free calling card to the program.

    "This is tragic situation that has affected one of our loyal customers and it presented us with an opportunity to show our support for him, the community and all of the men and women overseas that will ultimately benefit from the donations," Heritage said. "We are in business to make a difference in peoples' lives. Being able to participate in something as meaningful as this touches everyone in the company and motivates us to seek additional donations."

    McGinnis initially bought a block of phone cards for the men and women overseas using money that had been donated to a memorial fund in his son's name. He then contacted Heritage's for support.

    The idea of collecting phone cards for soldiers has been around for about seven years. The Veterans of Foreign Wars has distributed more than 350,000 calling cards to American soldiers since 1996 as part of the organization's Operation Uplink program.

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