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Walmart surprises employee for 30 years of service
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Flanked by balloons in her favorite color, purple, Debbie Vickery thanks her colleagues for the reception in honor of her 30 years working for Walmart. Her husband Ronald, right, said he had to keep mum about the party for about a month. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

Debbie Vickery suspected something was amiss Wednesday.

Vickery, the personnel coordinator at the Rincon Walmart, filled in that morning at a store in Chatham County for a colleague who was out for the day — or so Vickery was told.

In reality, that associate was at the Rincon store, joined by several others for a lunchtime surprise party to celebrate Vickery’s 30th anniversary with the company.

“I knew something was up,” Vickery said as she entered the employee lounge and saw a crowd gathered along with an array of decorations and a spread of food.

“Y’all just went all out,” she said. “I appreciate it very, very much.”

Vickery is the first Rincon Walmart associate to reach the 30-year milestone with the company, according to store manager Lula Wilson. Vickery began with Walmart in Savannah in 1984 and moved to the Rincon store a few months after its opening in November 1986.

“She’s such a great, great personnel manager,” Wilson said. “When you’re in personnel, you’re a support for all the associates in your building. She’s like that right hand to the managers.”

Wilson presented Vickery a framed 30-year certificate along with several gifts including a bracelet, a watch and a portrait of her family.

“We look forward to 30 more,” joked Nick Mattia, Walmart’s market health and wellness director.

Wilson acknowledged that planning the party and keeping it a secret was no easy task considering the guest of honor “knows everybody in the store, because she’s going to have contact with every single associate in this store. But we pulled it off.”

They kept Vickery in the dark until the end. Although she suspected her co-workers were up to something Wednesday morning, Vickery was caught off-guard by the magnitude of the celebration.

“I wasn’t expecting any of this!” she exclaimed. “I’m very, very surprised. This is overwhelming.”

While the Walmart management and staff successfully pulled off their covert operation, they did tell a fib Wednesday morning — to the personnel coordinator, no less.

“They did, but it’s OK,” Vickery said. “I’ll let them get by with it today.”