L & S Foods receives Friends of Education Award
Horine: 'The school's good to me'
The Wheaton school district recently had the honor of presenting Steve Horine, owner of L & S Foods in Wheaton, with the Friends of Education Award of Excellence.
The school nominated the store for the contributions it makes to the school and its students in supporting education. After nominations are received, the Southwest Center, a Webb City-based company which provides services and professional development for schools and education centers in the area, selects the recipient for the annual award which recognizes the contributions of businesses, civic groups and individuals to schools. The award will be presented in November at the annual Southwest Center's Celebration of Schools event.
According to Traci Mitchell, Wheaton High School principal, L & S Grocery was nominated because it supports and sponsors the school district in countless ways.
"Wheaton is a small rural community with little industry," Mitchell said. "The Wheaton school and L & S Foods are considered the heart of the Wheaton community. L & S Foods is a hometown grocery store that stocks locally-grown produce, a deli, butcher shop, and grocery items needed on a daily basis. Steve has donated food items for ballgames, raffles, the fall school carnival, clubs and organizations.
"He is also a yearbook and athletic sponsor. L & S has allowed our FFA organization to sell mums, potted plants, and other items in front of his store. He supports our elementary Halloween parade by throwing candy to our students as they march past in their costumes. Recently, L & S has been helping provide and store fresh fruits and vegetables for our students. This service has allowed us to provide students with higher quality produce without waste and storage."
Therefore, Mitchell said the district is extremely grateful for the services the store provides.
"In fact, we sometimes feel extremely guilty when a need arises and he is asked to help again and again," Mitchell said. "Steve always has a smile on his face and never bats an eye. Instead, he states, "Just let me know what you need." Without L & S Foods, I am convinced our students would not be able to participate or engage in many of the educational opportunities he makes possible. The Wheaton school district deeply appreciates his support and friendship."
"I don't think I've ever said no to anything they want; I'm glad to help out,"Horine said. "The school's good to me, the community's good to me, and I like to give back. So sometimes I've given them food at cost, and sometimes, free."
Horine, who has owned the store for about nine years, has worked in the grocery industry since he was 13.
"My dad had stores, so I've been in stores all my life," he said. "I've worked for big companies that had stores all over the country, then in Neosho, so I've worked in a lot of them, and, to me, this is the best one. I love to come to work every day, mainly because the people accepted me so fast."
Horine said he updated equipment and increased variety by about 100-fold when he first took over the store.
"It's all because the customers come in here and support me," he said. "I bought new equipment, new freezers, redid the whole thing, and people came in and supported it."
With Wheaton being a rural town, requiring residents to drive considerable distances to the nearest Walmart or Big Box store for supplies, Horine tries to stock his shelves with everything they need, so they can stay close to home.
"I try to keep as much variety in the store as I can, so they don't have to go some place else to shop," he said.
Horine says he wants to provide products the community needs, but he also wants to support the education of students by supporting their activities.
"I think kids need a good education, and I can help with that process," he said. I always support them because they're out learning how to deal with the world."
Sometimes, Horine provides avenues for students to raise money for their respective activities, such as special BOGO store promotions for anyone who purchase a gift card from students.
"It helps them sell those tickets so they get money for things like project graduation," Horine said.
He also sells fruits and vegetables to the cafeteria to help feed students, provides storage space for food, and saves the district money on food spoilage.
"We don't have enough storage area," Mitchell said. "So, the store provides all of our fruits and vegetables so we can get fresh ones, because you never know how much you're going to need with kids, and so it's been a real help and savings for us.
"I do whatever I can to help the students, when they have fundraisers, we may provide food with the sports, just anything I can do to help, and the school's good to me, too. It's a two-way deal."
"The store is truly phenomenal in how they support our school, especially when you have small town stores which don't get the recognition they should," Mitchell said.
Horine said he was in disbelief when he received the award.
"I couldn't believe it," he said. "It made me feel really, really proud. It was an honor. The small town, the friendliness, the people are just good here. I'm from Neosho, and they made me feel at home my first day here. The people are so sincere, they're just good people."
L & S Foods also packages a variety of bulk candies that are sold at the 86 Super Stop at the junction of Highways 86 and 60.
For more information about the store, people may call 417-652-3660, or visit it at 102 W. Main St. in Wheaton.