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Ronnie Christopher believes that building relationships is the key to a thriving business. He’s a member of the local Chamber of Commerce in Warner Robbins, Ga., but that’s not where his heart lies. Instead, he’s followed his passions to become a dynamic community philanthropist, and grown his U.S. Lawns franchise in the process.

“Warner Robbins is home to Robbins Air Force Base,” explains Ronnie. “I myself am retired from the Air Force, and this is where I was stationed.”

As you can imagine, Ronnie’s community ties are pretty strong, especially when it comes to the men and women in uniform. As a U.S. Lawns franchisee, he’s picked up clients like Guardian Centers, which trains police and military First Responders. This partnership eventually led Ronnie and his client to create a new charitable event in Warner Robbins: the Hero Fest.

“This is a day to honor our First Responders and raise money for military, law enforcement, fire fighters and EMTs,” notes Ronnie. This was the first year for Hero Fest, and the entire community rallied around it. Sponsors included the local Budweiser distributorship, the Frito Lay plant, and the Harley Davidson franchise. One of the radio stations even brought out a van for a remote broadcast. And the Air Force Base offered helicopter rides to civilians.

Although the weather was rainy, more than 1,000 people showed up for Hero Fest. Ronnie says he hopes to triple that number next year.

“We’ve already planned the next one. It’s going to be even better,” he says.

Not only did Ronnie Christopher help honor our nation’s heroes, he raised awareness of U.S. Lawns. The Budweiser brewery paid for event posters, all of which bore the U.S. Lawns logo. Both Ronnie and his nearby neighbor in Macon, Greg Israel, had their trucks parked on site during the festivities.

But best of all, Ronnie says, he was able to connect on a very real level with other leaders in his community.

“I got to know the Vice President of Frito Lay, the Distributor of Budweiser … these are all relationships I couldn’t have built if I’d simply gone and pitched them a bid. Instead, we all worked together for charity—on something that had nothing to do with landscaping. In my opinion, that’s the way you grow your business.”

Ronnie feels confident these relationships will pay off for his business—“maybe a year from now, who knows?” But meanwhile, he’s happy to have stepped forward and made a difference, honoring and supporting the public servants that he cares for as a veteran and as a community member.

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