Cracker Barrel's mission of connecting families around the dinner table has expanded to strengthening military families, too.
The Southern country restaurant has partnered with Operation Homefront to provide Cracker Barrel's iconic rocking chairs to families in the Homes on the Homefront program. The program donates homes to military families and helps them save money to eventually own the house.
Operation Rocker adds an extra element to the family receiving a home, a Cracker Barrel official said.
"A lot of times, [the military family has] moved around a lot ... in their lives," said Sloane Lucas, corporate citizenship manager at Cracker Barrel. "This might be their first home during the transitioning to civilian life, and we want to make the house a home for them."
Every time a Cracker Barrel customer purchases one of the rockers online, the store donates one to a military family. Rocker cushions are also available for purchase and donation through the program.
Lucas said Operation Rocker benefits families on a practical level by providing furniture for their new homes, but it's also a show of support.
"We respect that a military family has to make a lot of sacrifices to do what they do for us," she said. "We really want them to know that we care, and we want them to bring a part of Cracker Barrel into their home."
For Cracker Barrel patrons who aren't in the market for a rocker but still want to contribute, they can text SALUTE to 27722 and donate up to $5 to Operation Homefront.
Margi Kirst, chief development officer at Operation Homefront, said Cracker Barrel is built upon the idea of families and making sure people can stop along their journey and feel at home.
"Not every American out there really knows all the work that Operation Homefront does," she said. "Partnering with Cracker Barrel allows us this wonderful platform to get our message out."
More than 550 houses have been donated through Homes on the Homefront in the past five years, she said.
A family lives in a house rent-free for up to two years while Operation Homefront helps them understand how to be effective homeowners by building up their savings and making timely payments by contributing to a small equity fund that goes back into their house. Operation Homefront also assists with home repairs and helping the family navigate the Veterans Affairs system.
The donated rocking chair is a nice addition to the program, she said.
"Nothing says 'home' like a rocker on your front porch," Kirst said.
Operation Rocker is just the kickoff program to a yearlong partnership.
Cracker Barrel has committed to donate $100,000 through contributions over the next year, and the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Foundation has pledged another $100,000. Both Cracker Barrel and Operation Homefront said they are finalizing plans for upcoming campaigns.
"It's so important to bring families together, and Operation Homefront has a mission of strengthening family bonds," Lucas said. "It's really about the broader partnership and all the good that we're hoping to do with [Operation Homefront]."
Charlsy Panzino covers veterans education, employment and transition issues, as well as travel, entertainment and fitness. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charlsy is a Reporter and Engagement Manager for Military Times. Email her at email@example.com.