In honor of D-Day, this week’s Feel-Good Friday is about an incredible veteran who teaches us a lot about longevity and what life should be about. Hat tip to my colleague Andrew Malcolm for this story.

Advertisement

In Metairie, Louisiana, Korea Air Force Veteran Dillon McCormick wrangles carts for the grocery store Winn Dixie, even in record-breaking heat. On Memorial Day, former local WWL-TV news anchor Karen Swensen (Ronquillo) saw McCormick hard at work and was highly curious. She turned on her journalism skills and found out his story:

If you ask Dillon McCormick what gets him out of bed every morning, he’ll tell you this, “I love working at Winn Dixie, I get to talk to more people. I try to be nice to them or polite to them really.”

For over two decades, he’s been greeting customers in Metairie with a shopping cart and a smile.

“It’s best to let people know that they’re shopping at a place that I love working at.”

For the 90-year-old veteran, it’s a job he relies on to put food on his table. But that changed when he ran into a former WWL Louisiana anchor Karen Swensen.

“I asked him why are you working on Memorial Day, and he said two words I’m not even sure if you can make them out, he said to eat,” said Swensen.

That night she decided to help. “I really thought people would rally behind him, I knew New Orleans would. For so many people this has confirmed our belief in humanity”

Swensen used her social and broadcast media contacts to spread the word and mounted a GoFundMe campaign on McCormick’s behalf.

Advertisement

                                                             

 

Today, Memorial Day, in 90-degree heat (with a heat index of 103(!) thanks to the humidity), I watched a 90-year-old UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN collect and push shopping carts at a Metairie, Louisiana grocery store. Back and forth, back and forth, stacking cart after cart, sometimes more than twenty at a time, Mr. Dillon McCormick pulled and pushed his way through the maze of cars. I watched a few others help him and thought the best way I might help would be to share his story. 

My name is Karen Swensen and I am a former news reporter in New Orleans, LA. Mr. McCormick is working to EAT, he said. He needs $2500/month to live and says he only gets $1100 from social security. So he must push carts in triple-digit heat to make ends meet. He had the kindest smile and greatest attitude. He is grateful for his job and his work ethic speaks for itself. He pushes carts for HOURS. I met regular shoppers who say they see him doing this “all the time.” Some, like a 73-year-old man with a limp, get out to help him. Many do double takes. 

Advertisement

Swenson talked about McCormick’s Irish background and heritage. His grandmother came to America on a boat and forged a life, as well as bred an indomitable spirit and work ethic in her children and grandchildren. Swensen then asked her network for donations large or small to help McCormick retire. The goal set was $250,000. In ONE DAY, Swenson’s campaign appeal for McCormick raised $222,000! She continued:

Thank you to all who donated to Mr. McCormick’s fund. Together, we raised more than $220,000 in 24 hours, enough for him to retire!! Should he choose to remain working, it will be just that – his choice. No longer will the 90-year-old veteran have to push shopping carts in triple digit heat to put food on his table. He won’t have to walk to work (should he choose to remain); he can Uber instead, or buy a car. He will live out his days in comfort and security. Tomorrow we will begin the process of transferring the funds. What a delightful day awaits for him! God bless all of you and God bless our veterans.

As of this writing, the crowdfunding campaign has received $24,471 more for a total of $244,471. Absolutely amazing, and a reflection of the generosity that flows from people when presented with an opportunity to give to something worthy. 

Swensen and McCormick were both interviewed for “CBS Mornings” with David Begnaud. Begnaud asked McCormick what he thought about Swensen’s efforts on his behalf. McCormick said that Swensen was,

Advertisement

…a [v]ery high class young lady. Very high class. There are very few people like her left in this crazy world of ours. But, as long as she’s alive, people are in good shape.

Swensen, who retired from being in front of the camera two years ago to create change behind the scenes, felt that she did not deserve the attention:

I think I’m getting way too much credit for this. I believe the takeaway is the community response. So often we think of ourselves divided: Us and them. No, this was “We” and “Our.” We take care of our own, not only in Louisiana, but this entire nation banded together. And I looked at who was donating—it’s the left, it’s the right, it’s everything in between, we united for the right reason.

But here’s the kicker: McCormick doesn’t plan to retire. When Begnaud asked McCormick what he planned to do with the money, McCormick said he would give a quarter of it away to a nearby Catholic church, but he didn’t plan to stop working. 

WATCH:

                                                   

 
Even though McCormick initially told Swensen that he works in order to eat, he has chosen to keep doing his job at Winn Dixie because he also wants to connect with other people and fulfill a purpose. McCormick understands that part of what keeps us alive is not money or status, but our connection to a “Why,” and our connection to one another: 

Advertisement

My belief is that if you stop working, you’re gonna stop living. The good die young, so it looks like I’m going to be here a long time.

This 90-year-old Korea Air Force veteran doesn’t just dispense life lessons and retirement goals, but wisdom for any age. Rock on, Mr. McCormick. Thank you for your service, and your sterling example of a quality work ethic and a quality human being.