By Sarah Kuper
Chris Ajlouney is a busy man. He is an owner of several area Piggly Wigglys, he plays an active role in the revitalization of Birmingham neighborhoods, and he owns rental properties in the Eastlake and Woodlawn areas.
But he said one of the most meaningful and fulfilling things he has done lately is provide designated parking spaces at his businesses as part of the Wounded Warrior Project.
On a trip out of town, Ajlouney noticed a business with a parking spot outlined in purple paint with a notice reserving the spot for veterans and service members wounded during their time in the military.
Ajlouney resolved to bring the idea back to his stores in Birmingham.
“I looked at the spot and said, ‘I like that.’ People who served our country deserve that,” he said.
Ajlouney called the national Wounded Warrior Project office to see about acquiring the signs. He initially received two signs, and after he installed them, people started to take notice.
“Next thing I know is I’m getting phone calls left and right thanking me and I realized we need to do this all over the state because of everything veterans have done for us,” he said.
He called back to ask for more signs and he was initially turned down.
“I told her I needed 18 signs and she said the signs aren’t cheap,” Ajlouney said, “So I told her that I would pay whatever it costs and give a donation. She talked with her boss and then said, ‘I can’t turn you down.’”
Ajlouney said it took some time to get the signs up and the lines painted, but with each one, more people began to say, “Thank you.”
Would People Use Them?
He said he initially worried that people wouldn’t respect the spots when hard-pressed to find somewhere to park.
“But I’ll go to the Clairmont store, where at lunch every parking spot is full but the Wounded Warrior spot. People are honoring what it means,” he said.
Ajlouney said that, more often than not, he sees cars parked in the spots, and it makes him feel like all the effort was worth it.
“It was overwhelming. It made me feel good that I did something good for society and that the community is taking part,” he said.
If Ajlouney spots someone getting in or out of a car parked in the spots, he tries to go up and say thank you. He hopes others frequenting area Piggly Wigglys will try to do the same.