PEKIN (WEEK) - Tuesday morning brought a surprise for long time Kroger employee Jerry Harrison. And it wasn't a great surprise, just yet. He showed up to work bright and early just like he does every day, on his bicycle. He locked it up on the bike rack and went into the store as usual. Later, he said he was bringing some shopping carts back into the store when he noticed something unusual.
“I looked over where the motorized carts were and I did not see my bike. I’m kind of handicapped and that’s my only transportation,” explained Harrison.
He went and told a manager about his missing bike, visibly upset. Two Pekin Firefighters were in Kroger that morning and overheard the conversation, noticing Jerry's disappointment.
“Without that bike Jerry cannot get to work. He cannot get home from work. It’s his lifeline,” said Pekin Fire Captain Scott Frank who was on duty at Station #2 Tuesday.
“He was just visibly upset. He was shaky," said Pekin Firefighter Drew Vice who was in Kroger that day.
Jerry, who has special needs, has been working at Kroger since 1994. He rides his bicycle to work every single day, rain or shine. “I get to work everyday all year long on a bicycle. I’ve been doing the bicycle almost 28 years,” he explained.
The Pekin Firefighters brought the message back to the fire house. Soon the message spread and Pekin Firefighters Local 524 took a poll and decided they would use their charity fund to bring Jerry a new bike.
They called local Pekin bike shop Little Ade's Bicycles. “We upgraded Jerry for sure. Jerry was on a little bit more of a basic bike and we got him what we call a hybrid. A little bit better for riding around and covering miles,” explained Little Ade's employee Nate Woode.
Firefighters at Station #2 in Pekin then took the new bike to Kroger as a surprise. Jerry was left speechless. “Here’s the firemen inside where I’m at with a brand new bike. Surprised, I didn’t know what to think. I was in tears crying,” he explained.
Kroger store manager Tracy Blanchard said, “He was very overwhelmed and he was extremely excited about it.” She explained that Jerry is a beloved employee, always friendly to customers and reliably on time to work every day.
“He loves the people and he’s a hard worker. We can always rely on Jerry,” said Blanchard. And Jerry loves it there too. “I like it a lot for the customers and the kids. I make the kids happy. It makes me happy when I see a smile on their face,” explained Harrison.
From Kroger to the bicycle shop, to the fire department, the Pekin community rallied around Jerry.
“He always brings us sodas and he’s really friendly so we always look forward to seeing him,” said Woode at Little Ade's. “This is exactly why we do it, for stuff like this,” added Firefighter Patrick Finn.
Now Jerry has a brand new bike with a few more frills than before. But he still said he like his old bike a little bit better, though he may change his mind after a few rides.