Firefighters light up faces at grocery giveaway
The aisles at Los Primos Supermarket were so jammed Wednesday afternoon that shoppers were frozen in place.
No one complained.
They knew that at the end of the line, the cashier would say: “No charge!”
More than 100 shoppers filled their carts with free groceries, thanks to Durham city firefighters and the store’s owner, Miguel Collado.
It was their way of saying: “Merry Christmas!”
The excitement began at 3 p.m., when a fire truck with Santa, Mrs. Claus and Santa’s elf pulled into the parking lot of the East Main Street store.
“It’s Santa!” one boy yelled.
As the off-duty firefighters entered the store, crowds followed.
Within minutes, dozens of shoppers swelled to hundreds, and a kind of merry chaos began.
“Giving is the best thing in the world,” Collado, who has owned the store for 10 years, said. “Everyone here today has supported me, so this is the right thing to do. You can’t just keep it all for yourself.”
Collado matched the $2,700 that Durham firefighters raised for the giveaway, now in its second year.
Santa stood at a cash register with a thick wad of bills ranging from $1 to $100. When a shopper’s groceries were tallied, Santa handed over the cash and the shopper left with a smile.
Shoppers were allowed a maximum of $100 in groceries, but some took less so others could have a share.
Latonya Williamson of Durham was headed to Los Primos to buy groceries when she heard about the giveaway. She didn’t have enough money to buy everything she wanted, including soft drinks for her two daughters, but her face lit up when she learned what was happening.
“I asked the manager: ‘Why are so many people here?’ And he said: “Go grab a cart – you’re getting free food. And I said: ‘Really?’ And I grabbed a cart.”
Williamson said the free food was a blessing.
“This is helping me a lot,” she said as she loaded bags of food and cleaning supplies into her car. “I really appreciate it.”