DESTIN — A regular customer at the Walmart Liquor store is spreading a different kind of warmth this holiday season than she had planned.
The woman, whom store personnel know only by sight — and maybe a first name, "Teresa," an employee said — recently brought more than 400 of the iconic cloth bags that hold Crown Royal whiskey into the store and dropped them into a Crown Royal Bags for the Troops collection barrel.
The annual initiative by Crown Royal provides a donation of $1 to benefit deployed U.S. troops for every bag brought into participating liquor stores, up to a maximum of $50,000.
The money goes to Packages From Home, a charitable organization that provides care packages to deployed U.S. military personnel.
In addition to the monetary donation, Crown Royal gives the donated bags to Packages From Home, which fills them with a variety of items — non-perishable foods, personal toiletries and recreational items including books and games — for distribution to deployed American troops.
The mystery woman said she had planned to sew the Crown Royal bags into a quilt, but once she saw the Bags for the Troops barrel, she changed her plans, according to Susan Holt, who works in the Destin Walmart's liquor store and also serves as the store's community coordinator.
As of late last week, the 435 bags donated by the woman constituted the bulk of the nearly 500 bags collected at the Destin Walmart, Holt said.
The woman's donation is the largest single donation that David Barry, area manager with Coastal Wine and Spirits, a Northwest Florida alcohol distributor, can remember in his several years working in the Florida Panhandle.
"I've never seen it, ever," Barry said. "Not at one store like that. In one donation, that would be the biggest by far."
Barry remembers taking a total of three trash bags of Crown Royal bags out of a Panama City liquor store last year, but reckoned that the bags likely held fewer than the 435 bags donated by the mystery woman.
There also has been another notable local donation to Bags for the Troops, Barry said. An unidentified man dropped more than 100 Crown Royal bags into the collection barrel at the Publix grocery store on Racetrack Road in Fort Walton Beach, he said.
Crown Royal's Bags for the Troops collection will continue through January, according to Barry. At the Destin Walmart, bags can be dropped off at the liquor store from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily except Sunday, when the store is open from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Friends and family of deployed troops can submit the name of their service member to Packages From Home online at http://bit.ly/2zeKeKD.