Canby Resident Wins $1 Million in Kroger Covid Vaccine Giveaway

Debbie Johnson is Oregon’s newest millionaire. The lifelong Canby resident and (newly retired) baker was announced Wednesday morning as the fourth of five grand prize winners of Kroger’s Community Immunity Giveaway.

“I’m definitely retired now,” Johnson said with a laugh. “You won’t see me going back to work.”

Seriously, the money will be life-changing for Johnson and her husband, Rusty. They have no grand or concrete plans at the moment, but they will pay off some bills and are looking at buying an RV to do some traveling.

Johnson’s parents and other family members attended the event. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Kroger is the United States’ largest supermarket retailer, operating more than 2,500 stores across the country, so it was by no means a guarantee that a winner would show up in Canby, Oregon, or even at a Fred Meyer — which is just one of the 20 or so chains the grocery giant operates.

“This is the first million dollars I’ve ever given away,” Fred Meyer President Dennis Gibson joked afterward. “I hope to do it again someday.”

To be eligible, individuals must have had at least one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine at a Kroger Family Company location, or by a Kroger health care professional at an off-site event, before July 10.

Previous winners have included a Kroger associate in Jackson, Miss., and a married couple from Franklin Township, Ind.

Johnson said she, Rusty and her parents actually got their shots back in March — months before the Community Immunity campaign was announced.

“It wasn’t until later that I saw that and thought, ‘Well, I guess I am eligible for that,'” she recalled. “You know, I had no idea that, out of millions of people, I would be one of the winners. It was a real shock. I’m still in shock.”

Johnson experiences an emotional moment with her mother after receiving the life-changing award. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Johnson has been a customer of the Canby Fred Meyer for more than 20 years, calling it her “favorite store.” (One can imagine that Wednesday’s announcement didn’t do much to shift those rankings.)

“I’ve shopped here for a long time,” she said. “This is my main store.”

Though getting the free Covid-19 shot certainly turned out to be a good move for Johnson and her family (in more ways than one), she said she believes it should be up to each person to make the decision that it is best for them.

Johnson and her father joke about her retirement plans. Photo by Tyler Francke.

“It’s their own choice,” she said. “It was my choice to get my vaccination. I wanted to protect myself. But I have some friends that haven’t gotten theirs yet, and I respect that. It’s to each their own.”

For more information about the vaccine and where you can find it, visit If you have questions about taking the vaccine, consult your health care provider.

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