Medina Wal-Mart staff have thrown out a marine who had been collecting money so that needy kids could rejoice at Christmas time.
In the last 14 years, sixty-nine year old John Harkness had been volunteering for Toys for Tots, by collecting donations for needy kids inside a Wal-Mart store in Medina, northeast Ohio.
However, this year he was no longer allowed to carry out his mission inside the location, and instead was asked to take his donation box outside.
As a result, he was forced to endure the freezing cold and the heavy rain, alongside his wife Lynn, just so they could still bring gifts to children who otherwise would be forgotten by Santa Claus.
Upon seeing the elderly couple braving the elements in the name of their noble cause, many shoppers took photos, posting them on Facebook and other social media platforms, in an effort to complain about Wal-Mart’s cruel policy.
The images soon turned viral not just in Ohio, but also across the entire nation, probably also because Harkness had served his country as a Marine and was now subjected to such unfair treatment.
Dozens of shoppers have been infuriated with the retail corporation, expressing their anger on Wal-Mart’s official Facebook page, and even pledging to take their business elsewhere, and never visit the store again, boycotting it indefinitely.
Moreover, since the post which spurred the most vocal reaction had been accompanied by the shop manager’s full name, phone number and photo, there were also numerous death threats and angry calls addressed to the executive, and even to her relatives.
Others were less aggressive in their approach, simply showing support of the Harkness family by bringing them warm sandwiches and hot drinks, to help them withstand the cold.
Apparently, according to representatives of Wal-Mart, within the 4,500 stores included in the chain, asking for donations is strictly forbidden, and the volunteers had been notified about the guidelines a week ago, during a meeting with a store manager.
In fact, the rule had been in effect ever since 2000, and most likely prior management had failed to abide by these instructions, but once new executives were appointed, they wished to enact these procedures.
Lynn Harkness is actually the coordinator of Ohio’s Toys for Tots campaign, aided by the Marine Corps, and she and her husband had willingly decided they would still collect donations, even if that meant standing outside the store.
Although the policy had been communicated in advance, Wal-Mart representatives have announced they would be conducting an investigation, to ensure that everyone was treated with respect and consideration, and that no injustice was done.
As they explained, non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross, the Girls and Boys Scouts, the Salvation Army, as well as Toys for Tots are welcome to collect donations in support of their cause, but that can only take place outside the stores.
In response to the wave of protests that have been triggered by Wal-Mart’s controversial gesture, the couple have declared that the incident had been overblown, and that punishment for the executives didn’t actually fit the crime.
According to Lynn Harkness, it was completely inappropriate and uncalled-for to actually harrass the manager and her family just because of the store’s new policy.
As the Toys for Tots coordinator explained, she and her husband would continue to collect donations, even if that would entail standing outside, enduring frigid temperatures.
After all, the focus has always been on offering Christmas presents to underprivileged children, and attention shouldn’t be diverted to other sources of nuisance.
The main objective is to raise donations for over 1,700 children this winter holiday, by December 12, and the discussion shouldn’t be derailed away from this overriding purpose, even though it’s true that many volunteers are elderly veterans, who are particularly vulnerable to the cold.
It must be noted however that the Facebook vitriol did have a positive outcome eventually, since the Medina Wal-Mart has recently provided the Harkness couple with a heated tent to be used as money is raised for their cause.
Moreover, it has been stated that further measures would be taken so that donations outside stores could be collected more easily, without having to face extreme weather conditions.
Image Source: Snopes