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MORRISVILLE, N.C. -- Convenience Store News got an exclusive invite to a special recognition ceremony held yesterday in front of the Kangaroo Express store here, honoring currently serving members of the armed forces, military veterans and those who care or have made a difference in the lives of U.S. servicemen and women.
Top executives from The Pantry Inc., including CEO Terry Marks, Senior Vice President of Marketing John Fisher and Vice President of Marketing Services Dave Henninger, joined with special guests to celebrate American heroes and the collection of more than $1.35 million to date through its Salute Our Troops campaign. All the money raised will go to support the USO, Wounded Warrior Project and other state-based military organizations.
Duke University basketball radio announcer Bob Harris presided over the ceremony, which also featured The Pantry's special advisor on military affairs, Sgt. Tommy Rieman, who was awarded a Silver Star for his heroics during the U.S. war in Iraq.
"It is an honor for all of us at Kangaroo Express to participate in this effort," said Marks, who leads the more than 1,650-store convenience chain based in nearby Cary, N.C. Kangaroo Express is the primary operating banner for the retailer, which has been undergoing a transformation to its new Fresh Initiative, focused on improved Bean Street coffee, new fresh foods for breakfast, lunch and snacks, and other store renovations.
"More than one-third of Kangaroo Express employees have direct connections with the U.S. Armed Forces, either having served in the military or having a family member currently serving our country, and more than half of Kangaroo Express stores are located with 25 miles of a military installation," said Marks. "Supporting this program is an opportunity for us to do well from a business standpoint, but also to do good. We are humble to be part of this."
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, donations are being collected at all Kangaroo Express stores in 13 states. With seven weeks to go, the Salute Our Troops campaign has already exceeded its $1 million fundraising goal by $350,000, with 90 percent of the money coming from customers.
Fisher told CSNews -- the only convenience industry media at the event -- that supporting programs like this are part of The Pantry's strategy to emphasize the stores' connections to their local communities. "All our business is local," he said.
Sgt. Reiman, who suffered two bullet and 11 shrapnel wounds while repelling an enemy attack on his three-vehicle reconnaissance convoy in Iraq in December 2003, praised the employees and customers of Kangaroo Express for their support and presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Morrisville store manager Cristina Whithey.
Also on hand for the event were a military vehicle display of North Carolina National Guard vehicles, a U.S. Army recruiting and retention booth, a local radio station remote and supplier sponsors Oh Yeah!, Activate and Kronik offering product samples.
After the ceremony, Marks, Fisher, Henninger and Rieman posed for pictures with a fully restored 1952 Willys CJ-3 Jeep that has already traveled to more than 30 cities and over 13,000 miles to help raise awareness and donations for the cause.
In addition to Kangaroo Express store stops and vendor visits, the Salute Our Troops Jeep Tour has celebrated with local communities along the way at such events as the Myrtle Beach Memorial Day Parade, the Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, among others.