It was an exciting day at an Albertson’s grocery store in the Henderson, Nevada, area. Shoppers received a surprise helping hand from an unexpected source – and then cashier Melissa Leopoldo received a gift that made her break down in tears.
Leopoldo began her job as a courtesy clerk at Albertson’s on April 27, 2017. She had a very simple reason for clocking into the grocery store each day. “I am a hard-working mother trying to support [myself] and my lovely daughter,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
Nearly a year after she started at the grocery store, something unexpected happened while Leopoldo was on the job. A news crew from Fox 5 Vegas showed up to film inside of the Albertson’s, but they weren’t reporting in the traditional sense.
Instead, the station’s Surprise Squad was on the scene to stage one of its signature good deeds. Since December 16, 2013, Fox 5 and its sponsors have planned surprises for do-gooders in the community, and they have given away gifts to lucky passers-by too.
On this particular occasion, the team showed up at Albertson’s without a grandiose event planned. Instead, reporter Maria Silva headed to the grocery store “in the hopes of filling up more of those shopping carts and hearts,” she said.
Silva’s plan of action for doing so was simple – and it became clear as she approached the first lucky Albertson’s shopper. “I’m Maria with the Fox 5 Surprise Squad,” she said to a woman who had slipped her credit card into the reader. Silva stopped her from doing so, saying, “Don’t do that – we’re paying for your groceries.”
That was just the beginning. She soon found her way to Arthur Wheeler, who had lived in the Las Vegas area for 35 years. “I’m shocked,” he said, but he wasn’t just talking about the free food. “I’ve never been on TV,” Wheeler added.
Soon, he and Silva were laughing about his good fortune – Wheeler joked that this was his big moment on the silver screen. “This might be the closest I get to Hollywood,” he said. Then he told his cashier, “When I […] become an actor, you’re going to be my first leading lady.”
Then there was father-of-two Terry Jacobson. He said his shopping trip was for his little ones – and getting his food for free meant they could have a lot more family fun. “That means now I can take them to the movies. That’s a good feeling,” he told Silva.
Mona Neria was also at Albertson’s shopping for her family, which included two growing boys, ages 16 and 18. When Silva told her she’d pay for her groceries, Neria started to cry. “It’s much needed today, so that’s great,” she said through tears.
When Silva asked her why, Neria revealed, “We’re at the end of our unemployment.” So the Surprise Squad leader offered to take the mother-of-two back into the store to pick up anything else she had left behind and add it to her order – the news station would be footing the bill, after all.
“I could use some meat,” Neria admitted. As the two went shopping, she said just how much the free shopping trip would help her feed her teenage sons. She noted, “I won’t have to think about, ‘Oh, how do I get some meat for these kids?’” When she saw the total, she said that she wouldn’t have been able to afford it all without the Surprise Squad.
Then there was Abe Wisotsky, the New York native who had retired to Las Vegas. When Silva asked how he was doing, the elderly man responded, “I get up in the morning. At my age, it’s a good day.”
Despite his cheeky demeanor, Wisotsky had experienced a major heartbreak, which explained why he was shopping alone. “My wife, she passed away, so I’m here by myself now,” he said. And, when Silva asked what he missed about his spouse, Wisotsky replied, “Just about everything.”
With Wisotsky on his way – free food in hand – Silva approached her final Albertson’s surprise customer. “We’re going to save you a bit over a hundred bucks,” she told the elderly woman. To her, the free food was “a big deal, because I don’t have that much money all the time,” she admitted.
When they had finished their work with the customers, the Surprise Squad made their way to Leopoldo, the courtesy clerk who worked to support her young daughter. She had been moved to tears watching the Fox 5 team pay for her customers’ carts.
“It feels good to see people get help,” Leopoldo said through tears. It turned out that those living in the area needed this good fortune – she confirmed to Silva that the neighborhood comprised many low-income families.
Then Leopoldo offhandedly revealed that she too struggled. “I’m a single mother of a nine-year-old daughter, and it’s just hard,” she admitted. With that, the Fox 5 team had found their final surprise recipient of the day.
“I’ve seen the way you interact with these wonderful folks, so, today, we want to surprise you,” Silva said. With that, she pulled out a seemingly small surprise – a gift card to Albertson’s, but it was loaded with a hefty $200 balance for the single mother.
An emotional Leopoldo, like the rest of the lucky Albertson’s customers, could only express her gratitude. She then spoke to her daughter, who would hopefully catch her mom on TV. “Daisy, look what we’ve got. We’ve got $200 in groceries for us,” Leopoldo said before her final gesture of thanks – a huge hug for Silva, the leader of the Surprise Squad.