Honoring Hometown Heroes

The third annual NACS 24/7 Day celebrated first responders and raised funds for disaster relief.

Honoring Hometown Heroes

September 2021   minute read

By: Sarah Hamaker

Convenience stores are often the front-line supporters of first responders during times of natural disasters, providing fuel, food, water and a safe place to gather. These retailers see firsthand how hard police, fire and medical personnel and American Red Cross volunteers work for their communities. And over the past year-plus many stores supported these same frontline heroes as they battled the pandemic.

On July 24, more than 30,000 retailer locations participated in the third annual 24/7 Day, hosted by the NACS Foundation, to thank those workers. “It’s our goal in every community to be the best neighbor we can be,” said Nicholas Ruffner, public relations manager for Sheetz, a 24/7 Day Community Leader Sponsor. “We’ve developed a strong relationship with those who keep us safe, and we wanted to honor their service on July 24," Ruffner said.

“These front-line workers and first responders are our neighbors, friends and customers,” added Corey Cuvelier, convenience retailing manager for the U.S. at Shell, a 24/7 Day Community Advocate Sponsor. “Our participation in 24/7 Day recognizes their sacrifices and is one way we can express our sincere appreciation for their work in keeping our communities safe and secure.”

In 2021, retailer participation spanned 34 retail companies with locations across the United States.

“Through wildfires, floods, hurricanes, snowstorms, tornadoes and a pandemic, convenience stores—with their 24/7 operations—are often the only place open to serve first responders and medical personnel working around the clock,” said Stephanie Sikorski, executive director of the NACS Foundation. “Our members have embraced 24/7 Day as one way they give back. And while it’s a single day, it underscores our commitment to uniting the efforts of convenience retailers and suppliers year-round to create positive change and real disaster relief for the communities we serve. Proof that together, we can do more.”

During its third year, 24/7 Day grew participation 89% from 2020—and 1,033% since its inaugural event in 2019. This year, retailer participation spanned 34 retail companies with locations across the United States. In addition to giving away food and beverages, many retailers also gathered donations for the American Red Cross.

Here are a few of their stories.

Shell: Aligning Interests

For Shell, 24/7 Day is an extension of its philanthropy efforts all year long. “This strengthens not only our relationship with NACS but also those we’ve forged with first responders, medical personnel and the American Red Cross in our communities,” Cuvelier said. “To us, this was a natural fit to support this campaign to give back to our communities.”

Across its 13,000 U.S. locations, Shell stations offered free sandwiches, water, fountain drinks and coffee. The company also partnered with Feeding America to provide mental health resources for those in need. “We’ve received very positive feedback from our communities about 24/7 Day,” Cuvelier said. “For us, the spirit of 24/7 Day carries through our entire year.”

Sheetz: Best Neighbor

Sheetz sees its involvement with 24/7 Day as a way to embody a good neighbor in every community with a store. “Besides wanting to honor the service of those who work to keep us safe, we also liked the component of supporting the Red Cross,” Ruffner said. Sheetz regularly supports the Red Cross during community disasters, “and it’s important to us to show our support any way we can,” he said.

As a yearly participant since its inception, Sheetz has seen 24/7 Day evolve. “We’ve taken the learnings from this one day and applied it to different circumstances throughout the year,” Ruffner said. For example, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the chain instituted free coffee drinks for first responders and those on the front lines in hospitals. “Free coffee and free fountain drinks are the beginning of our community effort, as our teams are active in their communities supporting nonprofits through donations and Sheetz’s own charities, like Sheetz for the Kidz,” Ruffner said.

Rutter’s: Highlighting Heroes

For the second consecutive year, Rutter’s has run Feeding the Frontline as part of its NACS Foundation 24/7 Day participation. “The event highlights front-line workers, who are very important to us and our communities, and being able to recognize all of them truly hits home with our company’s core values,” said Chris Hartman, director of fuels, forecourt and advertising for Rutter’s.

This year, the company had more than 2,200 first responders, medical personnel and truck drivers visit a Rutter’s store on July 24. “Our stores gave away almost 4,000 free meals of a grab-and-go sandwich or wrap, chips, fountain drink and candy bar,” Hartman said. “Supporting our communities is not just a one-day event—it’s a 365-day opportunity to help out in a variety of ways.”

Wawa: 24/7 DNA

For Wawa, 24/7 Day is a natural fit with its round-the-clock operations. “It gives us great pride to unite with other convenience retailers to celebrate those everyday heroes who are working 24/7 to serve their communities,” said Brian Schaller, chief real-estate and fuel officer for Wawa. “It’s become an annual tradition for Wawa and The Wawa Foundation to celebrate its annual partnership with the American Red Cross.”

The chain uses 24/7 Day to announce its in-store fundraising campaign results for the American Red Cross and thank its customers for their support, as well as distribute more than 30,000 breakfast and coffee coupons to American Red Cross volunteers. “It’s in our company’s DNA to acknowledge everyday heroes, including first responders, health-care workers and volunteers all year round, so we will continue to champion 24/7 Day in everything we do,” Schaller said.

TXB: Uplifting Communities

TXB (Texas Born) honored hometown heroes on 24/7 Day by offering free private-label products, including TXB jerky and one-liter bottles of electrolyte water, to doctors, nurses, EMTs, police officers, sheriffs, highway patrol, firefighters, border patrol, 911 dispatchers and American Red Cross volunteers. TXB has participated in 24/7 Day the past two years.

“Especially over this past year, first responders, medical personnel and volunteers have gone above and beyond to keep our communities safe and healthy, and participating in 24/7 Day was the least we could do to say thank you,” said Anna Felz, marketing brand manager at TXB. “Our communities know they can rely on TXB to provide essential items, as we’re often the only store with grocery and grab-and-go items in their area, and 24/7 Day is one way we celebrate our local communities.”

TXB views 24/7 Day as an important component in its charity initiatives. “Community giving is a priority of ours, and a focus of our CEO
Kevin Smartt, current NACS chairman,” Felz said. “We encourage all retailers to evaluate
what more they can do to support and uplift their local communities.”

GSTV: Spreading the Word

The participating retailers couldn’t easily say thank you to first responders without assistance in getting the word out about 24/7 Day. GSTV, the official media partner of the NACS Foundation and 24/7 Day, shared a video about 24/7 Day across its network of 25,000+ locations, offering participating retailers a customized version showcasing their specific offers.

“As a media partner to fuel and convenience retailers situated in the hearts of communities, it’s important for GSTV to recognize and thank our local heroes—the essential workers and first responders who are vital to our thriving neighborhoods,” said Dan Trotzer, executive vice president of industry for GSTV. “It’s also important that we use GSTV’s platform to communicate all the positive contributions that the convenience and fuel industry delivers to the communities they serve, and initiatives like 24/7 Day provide us that opportunity.”

All Year Long

As these retailers stated, the essence of 24/7 Day is one the convenience and fuel retailing industry carries throughout the year. Convenience stores are closely tied to their communities, providing fuel, water, food and other necessities to emergency workers and customers craving a return to normalcy after disasters. Having an initiative like 24/7 Day gives retailers another way to honor their customers and communities.

“When we started 24/7 Day in 2019, we hoped it would spark participation by our retail and supplier members,” Sikorski said. “We’ve been thrilled with how much it’s grown in just three years and can’t wait to see what 24/7 Day in 2022 will bring.”

NACS 24/7 Day Participants

A sincere thank you to all participants in the 2021 NACS Foundation 24/7 Day, as well as GSTV as the official media sponsor and NENA— The 9-1-1 Association:

  • bp and Amoco
  • Casey’s
  • Certified Oil
  • CFCA
  • Coen Markets
  • Cumberland Farms
  • ExtraMile
  • Fastrac
  • High’s
  • Huck’s
  • Irving Oil
  • Kwik Shop
  • Loaf N’ Jug
  • Loop Neighborhood Markets
  • Minit Mart
  • Pilot Company
  • Quik Stop
  • Rapid Refill/Garrett’s Family Market
  • Rutter’s
  • Sheetz (Community Leader Sponsor)
  • Shell (Community Advocate Sponsor)
  • Sprint Food Stores
  • Square One Markets
  • St. Romain Oil Company
  • The Convenience Group LLC
  • The Hub Convenience Stores
  • The Markets of Tiger Fuel Company
  • Tom Thumb
  • Turkey Hill
  • TXB
  • Wawa
  • Yesway/Allsup’s

For a complete list of how each partner embraced 24/7 Day, visit www.247Day.org.

How to Get Involved Next Year

Now more than ever, we must come together to support those who work around the clock to take care of our communities. Learn how you can get involved and partner with the NACS Foundation’s 24/7 Day by visiting www.conveniencecares.org/get-involved.

Sarah Hamaker

Sarah Hamaker

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer, NACS Magazine contributor, and romantic suspense author based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.