The Essentials: Winn-Dixie employee takes extra steps to serve customers

Bill Graham / The Meridian Star 

Marilyn Neal (left), a Winn-Dixie employee for 40 years, has gone out of her way to help customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. “They’ve called and bragged on her,” said manager Lisa Conway (right). 

One day during the COVID-19 pandemic, Winn-Dixie employee Marilyn Neal received a call from a woman wanting to know if the store had Clorox.

With the Meridian location out of the cleaning product, the woman seemed to be out of luck, until Neal made a trip to Sam’s Club on her own and found a supply. She bought the Clorox, and gave it to the woman at no charge. 

“If you ask me, I try and go way beyond what I’m supposed to do to help you,” Neal said. 

Since the coronavirus hit the United States, Neal, a Winn-Dixie employee for 40 years, has been providing groceries to the elderly, collecting lists, gathering items and bringing them the cars stationed in front of the supermarket.

It’s a service she helped start three months ago when people began asking if the store delivered so they could minimize contact with others, as the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age.

While it doesn’t deliver, patrons can still receive groceries through Instacart, an online company that transports items from local stores to homes. Still, Neal wanted to help those without smartphones or computers.

“I just feel like it’s important that the older people who aren’t computer-wise, that there’s an outlet for them,” Neal said. “I feel like I am supplying something for somebody in need during this crisis.”

She takes orders over the phone or in person, compiles the groceries and arranges for curbside pickup.

“Some of them roll their window down and stick the check through, and I have to load it up in the trunk and shut the trunk and everything,” she said. “I do all that, and I don’t mind doing it for them.”

Lisa Conway, a Winn-Dixie manager, said people have spoken to her just to praise Neal.

“They’ve called and bragged on her,” Conway said. “They’re happy.”

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