Working through the grief together

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2013

By James Denison
Guest Columnist

At sweetFrog, we believe in being good neighbors.

In a world increasingly dominated by high-rise apartments and virtual interaction, we know the word “neighbor” is becoming more and more old-fashioned. But that’s why we chose to focus on it. There’s something milk-and-cookies in the word, something familiar and comforting. It’s the smell of newly-mown grass and the sound of touch football games in the cul-de-sac.

James Denison

James Denison


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You see, at sweetFrog, we see ourselves as a group of mom-and-pop shops. We realize true growth happens at a local level, and we are never going to outgrow our commitment to our communities. We strive to be a place where customers feel welcomed and known.

Savannah Scheil, the bubbly, vivacious sweetheart whom we had the privilege to employ, had come to know quite a few people around Suffolk in her 17 years. When we learned that Savannah had died Sunday night in a car accident, we knew we had to help her loved ones somehow. Because that’s what neighbors do. We needed a way to turn our clawing grief into action, to swallow the lump in our throat for a minute.

And we found relief in the tears and embraces of friends, in scrawled Sharpie messages penned with trembling fingers. We wish we could individually thank every person who came into the store and donated toward the Scheil family. We’re learning, even in this pain, what it looks like to be part of a community that leans on one another.

Our stores around the country are no different. Every month, members of our corporate office take our mascots, Scoop and Cookie, to a local children’s hospital to brighten the days of young patients. Our location in Columbus, Ga., hosts regular daddy-daughter date nights, where little ladies come by in their finest dresses with their fathers to watch Princess and the Frog. Our Wilmington, N.C., store held a fundraiser and donated funds to help a local family whose daughter was born prematurely and needed intensive hospital care.

We do this because it’s who we are. The FROG in sweetFrog stands for Fully Rely On God, and that phrase guides us to be the kind of business that others can fully rely on. It’s a poor sort of business that takes your money but shies away from taking your hand in the hard times.

On Tuesday, we were amazed by the outpouring of support we received from this community. The Panera next to our store brought dinner over for our employees; we can’t thank them enough for that show of concern.

In Savannah’s passing, Suffolk has lost a daughter, a friend, a classmate, an employee, and more, and it is fitting to mourn that loss. But let’s not let sorrow seclude us; let’s work through this grief in community. After all, isn’t that what neighbors are for?

James Denison works as the PR and Social Media Associate for sweetFrog Enterprises. In his spare time, James enjoys playing soccer and cheering on his alma mater, VCU. Email him at