The Shasta County, CA community is lucky to have Lucky Miller’s Deli & Market in the neighborhood. When the Zogg Fire hit the area in late September, the massive California wildfire burned more than 56,000 acres. Small business owner Jason Miller says he immediately felt “compelled to help a little town that supported me.”
The 500-square foot deli has only been in business 18 months in the Redding, CA location; however, it has already created an impact in the community. “A lot of the people in our area have nowhere else to go for food—50% of our customers come from west side,” explains Jason. So, when the fire hit, many customers were affected and he notes, “customers were begging for any help.”
Jason knew he wanted to take immediate action. “You don’t thrive in a restaurant unless your community supports you. But you can’t take, take, take. You have to give back,” he says. “I knew I had a platform as a deli with all those customers to give back to the community.”
Jason also knew better than to go it alone. And he recognized how to use social media as a platform. On September 27, he posted a simple message on the Lucky Miller’s Deli & Market Facebook page offering to help those in the fire zones. In response to comments like, “Thank you for supporting our community,” Jason replied, “You support us!”
Within one day, Jason shared that customers had been dropping off “an overwhelming response of donations.” He decided to take it further to “help these people get back on their feet after they’ve lost everything.”
Next came up the Stuff the Bus concept, which Jason recognized still wasn’t enough.
“I knew we needed something larger than a bus,” he says. “I wanted to stuff a semi-truck trailer!” Fortunately, he had connections. Jason’s wife and business partner, Kelley Miller, works at the RLT Trucking Company, which donated a semi to fill.
Jason notes, “The next day, I called back and said: I need a second semi tomorrow!”
By October 1, the Millers created the Stuff The Semi For Zogg Fire project with plans to set up semi in the Lucky Miller’s parking lot. The trucks were parked outside Lucky Miller’s for two days collecting donations. Lucky Miller’s also partnered with Igo Church, which was able to accept and coordinate the donated items.
Donations continued pouring in, everything from formula and baby food to blankets and towels to cleaning supplies and pet food, all which would be donated to those who had to evacuate their homes. Jason continuously used Facebook Live to share updates, encouraging and thanking the donators, underscoring that it was a community effort, and asking for additional help.
“Never been so grateful in my 20 years in business,” was one of Jason’s many comments.
In just one example of gratitude, Babra Smith, a local who helped organize the project, commented, “Jason Miller, you my friend are an amazing business owner and even a better friend to this community! Thank you for all your hard work!! PLEASE PEOPLE SUPPORT BUSINESSES THAT SUPPORT OUR COMMUNITY!!”
seedership Co-Founder Jennifer Smithberger was following the events as they unfolded. “What drew me to the story was Jason’s courage and passion. He was so motivated to help others,” she says. “The moment he realized his community was in need, he leapt in to see how he could be of service.”
On the donation days, seeing a line around the corner, Jason says, “I looked at my wife and we agreed this is absolutely the right thing to do.”
The day the trucks were unloaded, he recalls, “It went from not a dry eye to the happiest people I’ve ever seen in a critical moment after losing everything.”
Jason leads with authenticity and empathy, which means acknowledging that the Stuff The Semi project wouldn’t have been achievable without help from local businesses and community members.
Commented Jonathan Slayton of Ace Hardware, “It’s an amazing thing that you’re doing brother. It takes a village. Our village stepped up today.” Lucky Miller’s agrees, commenting, “thank you we have a village.”
In addition to the trucking company, collaborators including Ace Hardware, United Shasta , Stelter’s Air Conditioning, Cornerstone Community Bank, Dignity Health, Carpet One, Dominate Ink, Westside Laundry, and JCPenney along with local news stations and a dozen volunteers who pitched in to help out, confirming that in times of need, it truly does takes a village.
The village is appreciative, too. “My busines is flourishing—even during COVID-19. “I’ve been in business 18 months in this location and I’m breaking new numbers every day. It’s because of the compassion I gave out,” Jason says. “People are still calling/Facebooking asking where to donate,” he adds.
In his years as a business owner, Jason has consistently prioritized helping his community through fundraisers, forming partnerships, and simply promoting other local business owners on his Facebook page.
“Since 1995, I’ve done a lot to help in the community, but I’ve never seen a calling like this,” he admits. “I’ve never seen a natural disaster cause a community so much pain—and at the other side of it, create so much love.”
Jason credits social media for a lot of the impact and advises others to use their social platforms to their advantage. “It really helps your business. I got 30,000 hits on one post,” he emphasizes.
“Social media is very powerful. We have all know someone who’s social media savvy. Ask for their help to get your message out there,” he adds.
In terms of advice to other business owners, “It takes one person to get the ball rolling. When there’s a natural disaster, be the first one to reach out to the people in your community who may have a larger pull than you,” Jason says.
“Small business owners are leaders and ‘seeders’ in their community because they’re passionate about their communities. These are the people with potential to drive change and do good for their community,” explains Jennifer.
She adds, “Jason is a stellar example of a business leader who built trust in his community. He planted seeds of kindness, nurtured them by engaging his community, and helped them grow to support a cause.”
In exchange for caring for and supporting his community, Jason’s community is supporting him. “His business is thriving,” Jennifer notes. “And as Lucky Miller’s Deli & Market grows, its giving and support for the community also grows.”
To learn more, watch Jason share his community story below.