Sobeys employee hopes viral picture sends bigger message about lending a hand

WATCH ABOVE: A Sobeys grocery store employee’s act of kindness has made him and a senior local celebrities. Julia Wong reports.

HALIFAX – A picture of a Sobeys employee walking a legally blind customer home has gone viral and touched the heartstrings of many people.

A Facebook picture of a Sobeys employee walking an elderly customer home has gone viral. Courtesy/Terri Bordage Stevens

Austin MacNeill, 22, has worked at the Sobeys grocery store on Queen Street in Halifax for six months.

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He met Mary Cogswell, 72, approximately three months ago when she came in looking for assistance in getting groceries and taking them home. Cogswell, who lives nearby, goes to the supermarket several times a week.

Austin MacNeill, 22, has worked at the Sobeys on Queen Street in Halifax for six months. Julia Wong/Global News

“She’s just a really nice lady. She’s just friendly to everybody and she knows exactly what she wants when she goes around and it makes it easy for us,” he said.

On Friday, MacNeill was walking Cogswell home from the supermarket when someone snapped a picture of the pair and uploaded it to social media. The image quickly went viral after being posted on Facebook, surprising MacNeill, Cogswell and the Sobeys’ staff. In just 24 hours, the image has received more than 13,000 likes and has been shared more than 5,000 times.

“One of the ladies from the blind community, she said, ‘You’re more popular than the Queen right now’,” said Cogswell with a laugh.

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Cogswell has lived near the Sobeys store for six years and said that the staff started helping her with her groceries about five years ago.

“Once they got to know me, they started automatically, on their own, doing it and asking the supervisor if they could walk me up and the supervisor would say yes. If that person couldn’t walk me up, they would always see to it that [somebody] did.”

Cogswell has been legally blind since 1987, and she said it often makes it difficult for her to do her everyday tasks like getting groceries.

“It would be hard. If they weren’t able to help me then I would have to make extra trips down there to get what I need,” she said.

She said the help she gets at the supermarket is invaluable.

“There’s no hesitation for them to help me out,” she said. “It’s good to know you got people who will take the time to help somebody.”

MacNeill admits that the viral nature of the picture has taken him by surprise.

“It’s just something we do every day so it’s nothing really out of the ordinary,” he said.

But he hopes the image sends a bigger message.

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“The fact that … there are still good people out there. A lot of people seem to be just really happy by the fact that somebody was willing to go out of their way.”

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