BRUNSWICK, Ohio (WKYC)- Over the weekend, a woman posted a picture of a Marine veteran standing outside of a Medina Walmart. He stood in the cold and rainy weather as he collected money for Toys for Tots.
The vets said they asked to go inside, but the Walmart store manager said it’s against the company’s solicitation policy to allow them inside.
The veterans were then asked to stay outside of the store, with temperatures were in the low 40s.
The image of the Marine, Jack Harkness, made its way across the country on Facebook. The post has now been shared more than 30,000 times.
Three days later, Walmart responded.
Two representatives met with Harkness and his wife, Lynn, at their Toys for Tots warehouse. One of those representatives was the store manager, who was called out in the Facebook post.
The Harkness family says they are pleased with how things went.
“If we are invited back and the snow is three feet deep and it is five degrees,” said John. “I will stand outside all day. Once a Marine, always a Marine. No matter what the conditions, the obstacles, we will accomplish the mission.”
On Saturday, with that attitude, John Harkness kept fulfilling a mission.
“It is for the kids,” said John. “It is for the kids.”
“We are happy,” said Lynn. “My husband is happy. They are happy. The kids will be more happy, more importantly.”
But everyone was not always so happy. The Facebook post has outraged people across the country.
John says he told the woman who shared the post on Facebook that Walmart employees told him he couldn’t stand inside. Never did he think it would get so much attention.
“It spread like wildfire,” said John. “The support has been amazing. It has been fantastic.”
It has been the opposite for Walmart, from a barrage of phone calls to death threats. Robin Wright, the Medina Walmart store manager, met with John and Lynne at the Toys for Tots warehouse on Monday.
“I wanted them to know, from me, that I would never be disrespectful in any way, and I wanted them to hear that from me personally,” said Wright. “We have had some great conversations. What a great organization, and it is very humbling what they do.”
“It is not about Walmart,” said John. “It is not about us. It is about the kids.”
“So let’s just get on to a peaceful time that we are supposed to be having, especially at Christmas, and stick to our faith, our love and our charity and not the hate,” said Lynn.
Walmart says it does not allow people to solicit inside of stores. A Walmart regional manager says they do, however, allow people to come inside to get warm, but they should not be asking for money while inside.
A WKYC viewer asked about Walmart’s relationship with Children’s Miracle Network.
Walmart spokesperson Brian Nick says there are four organizations they have certain agreements with. Those agreements permit employees at the register to ask for donations during certain times of the year on behalf of those four organizations, but people from those organizations are not allowed to ask for money inside of the stores.
Wright says she is working with both John and Lynn to decide how they can do things better next year.