SPRING HILL - Shoppers and Publix staff at stores around Hernando County were greeted with unexpected enthusiasm on Thursday morning.
A group of six representatives from local agencies waved signs, paraded around the stores, chatted up customers and thanked staff as part of Publix Appreciation Day for the United Way.
Some were perplexed, until the group explained their cheers and signs, that listed some of the ways Publix helps their organizations do what they do.
"We're celebrating Publix and all they do in our community," said Janine Hammett, program director of the Child Advocacy Center of Hernando County.
Kathy Jones, executive director of the United Way of Hernando County, said Publix gave more than $385,000 to her organization this year. The money is raised by employees during a campaign, Jones said, and matched for a portion by the company.
With Hernando County's eight locations, each store raises between $25,000 and $33,000, Jones said.
At the Child Advocacy Center, funds are used for therapy and staff positions. Hammett said Publix encourages their employees to go on yearly tours of the organizations they donate to.
"They are amazing, the way they treat the community and their employees."
Other agencies that visited Publix locations in Spring Hill were the YMCA, Dawn Center, Mid-Florida Homeless Coalition and Family Visitation Center. Another group visited the Brooksville Publix locations to say thanks, Hammett said.
Cezar Gonzalez, district vice president for the YMCA, said the donations help fund senior wellness programs, and BarbaraWheeler, executive director of the Mid-Florida Homeless Coalition, said the funds help her organization collect data on local homeless populations, which is reported to state and federal agencies.