Riverside Refreshments has a long history of philanthropy in the Augusta community, so it’s not surprising that the generosity of this local family-operated company has also touched Augusta University. Riverside Refreshments has committed $100,000 to establish the Riverside Refreshments Men’s Golf Scholarship Endowment.
“My mom and dad have always been very generous people and they taught us to want to give back,” said Les Perry, general manager, referring to his parents Edgar “Ed” Perry Jr. and the late Gail Heath Perry. “We love giving back to good causes and causes that we have a passion for.”
Riverside Refreshments traces its origins all the way back to 1935, founded as Dixie Beer of Augusta and originally owned by the Brittingham family. As the name indicates, it was primarily a beer distributor, but that changed in 1980 when Ed Perry, then the general manager of Pepsi in Augusta, joined the team as president and incorporated soft drinks into the distribution business. In 1982, they merged with Riverside Distributing, owned by the Casey and Phillips families and became Dixie Riverside Inc. In 2000, they sold all the beer holdings and have been dedicated to soft drink, food service and breakroom provisions ever since. They now carry a variety of classic brands including R.C. Cola, Cheerwine, Canada Dry, Snapple and A&W Root Beer, to name a few. As a true “family business,” in addition to Les and his father having their hands in Riverside Refreshments, Les’ brother, Heath Perry, heads the soft drink division.
The company prides itself on being a business that is committed to family values and giving back to the community. Some of the many local causes they have supported throughout the years include Golden Harvest Food Bank, Child Enrichment Inc., The Empty Stocking Fund, Jud C. Hickey Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Walton Foundation and the Walton Rehabilitation Health System. Additionally, after Ms. Perry passed away in 2007, the Perrys established the Gail Heath Perry Endowment at University Hospital to provide wigs, breast prosthetics and other related accessories to breast cancer patients who have limited financial resources.
Les Perry has spent a good portion of his life involved with Augusta University golf. He grew up in Augusta and played junior golf when he was younger. He has fond memories of Ernie Langford, a former coach of the Augusta University men’s golf team, trying to recruit him to play golf for AU in 1989. Even though Perry ended up going to Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, he moved back to Augusta in the late ’90s and became involved in the Augusta Golf Association, who are loyal supporters of the AU golf program and Forest Hills. Likewise, Perry has been an active member of the Augusta University Men’s Golf Tournament Committee as well as a co-chair of the tournament at Forest Hills for over a decade.
“One of my best father-son memories was taking my son out to Oklahoma State when we (AU) won the national championship in 2011,” he said referencing the second of back-to-back NCAA Division I golf championships the Jaguars achieved. “That was a highlight of my golfing career, just to go out and be a part of that.”
Perry cites other local philanthropists as well for inspiring the gift to AU men’s golf. “There are some local people in this community, Nick Evans, Don Grantham and Fleming Norvell, who have done a lot for the school and the golf program,” said Perry. “They’ve been tremendous advocates and leaders of the program and we want to be a part of helping take this to the next level.”
He also mentioned AU’s golf budget being considerably less than some of the other colleges competing in Division I golf. “We want to get them up to par where they can be on the same level as the competition they play against,” said Perry. He also expressed a debt of gratitude to Gene Neal and the late Grady Smith, previous leaders in running the tournament, for being such strong role models and for motivating him to continue their work in managing a first-class college golf event.
“Being from Augusta, Georgia, which we consider the home of golf in America, being able to be part of a top Division I golf program, it’s fun to be close to that program,” said Perry, elaborating on his deep-rooted enthusiasm for Augusta University golf. “We enjoy seeing the success and we enjoy getting to meet the players and getting to know the coaches. There’s a lot of pride when it comes to golf in Augusta. We just enjoy being a part of it. We want to make sure we do all we can so they (Augusta Jaguars) can compete at the national level.”