Shopping with a hero sums up the season

Published 6:59 am Sunday, December 20, 2015

By Greg Siems

Vision 2020 Executive Director

Happy holidays, everyone. This time of year always fosters a spirit of giving, and we at Vision 2020 love to celebrate all of the positive things happening in our community. One event, in particular, has caught my attention and I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you more about it.

Gregory Siems

Gregory Siems

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On Tuesday, around 50 children selected by Mower County Human Services will participate in the new Shop with a Hero program at Walmart in Austin. Walmart will give each child a $50 gift card that they can choose to spend on themselves or others, and staff will be available to help wrap gifts. Each kid will also receive a free holiday meal, with ham donated by Hormel Foods and the rest provided by the Walmart kitchen. All of these things are great in themselves, by providing the children with a little more to have and give than they otherwise would this season.

But as the title of the program implies, the children won’t be shopping alone. Members of Austin’s finest the police and sheriff’s departments, fire department, and Gold Cross Ambulance service will accompany each child. A lot of kids grow up wanting to be a police officer or firefighter, but they less often get the chance to actually interact with these positive role models. These heroes are such an asset to our community, and building relationships with our town’s youth can only serve to impart the importance of service, responsibility, and all of the other values they represent.

It’s events like these that demonstrate what a great place Austin is and can be. So many different people and organizations are involved in making this happen, and it just goes to show what we can accomplish when we all work together. $50 and a meal might not seem like a lot, but to a child in need it can make all the difference. Sharing the overall experience with a hero, moreover, is priceless.

Vision 2020’s Community Pride and Spirit committee works to promote “a positive community spirit by fostering service, support and mentorship programs geared towards improving the quality of life and opportunities for all citizens,” and an event like this absolutely checks all of those boxes. We salute everyone who is participating in the Shop with a Hero program and those who have worked to make it a reality.

Shop with a Hero, of course, is only one of the many great things going on in Austin throughout the year. If you know of other events or programs that deserve attention or would like to find out how you can lend a helping hand, please get in touch with Kristen Olson, Austin’s community concierge and cochair of the Community Pride and Spirit committee. She is an excellent resource and would be happy to point you in the right direction. She can be reached by phone or email, at 1-507-437-4562 or