Have you ever driven by a sign outside of a business again and again, always wondering what it meant but never taking the time to find out?

My interest-piquing sign is at the corner of Main Avenue and Fourth Street in downtown Fargo. By my math, I’ve driven by that Cenex station more than 2,600 times (You don’t even want to know how long it took me to make that calculation).

Every so often, the marquee sign will include the message “Tanks of Thanks.”

Now, finally, the answer to one of my mysterious sign questions has fallen into my lap. It turns out it revolves around kindness, and I never even knew it.

Tanks of Thanks is a program by CHS/Cenex that rewards people for their contributions to their neighborhoods with free fuel.

Tom Linnertz of Harwood, N.D., recently won $50 in fuel for providing military veterans an Honor Guard at funeral services. Tom has been using his time, talent (he plays the bugle) and own gas money to attend and even arrange these events since 2009. Sometimes he works with the American Legion Post 21 in Moorhead, and sometimes families contact him on their own.

“I started reading that they couldn’t find buglers, so they would use an artificial bugle or a recorded version. To me that’s just wrong. I knew the Legion was starting to do it, and they didn’t have enough live buglers and I thought this is something I want to do. It was something that called me in.” Tom says.

“I get a deep feeling of satisfaction, like I’ve really helped somebody. I can provide tradition and help in grieving. It’s very moving.”

Tom spent two years in the Marine Corps and 19 years in the Army Reserve before retiring as a Master Sergeant in 1997. He estimates he has played “Taps” in about 230 funerals in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Since the beginning of the Tanks of Thanks program in 2011, Cenex has awarded 16 winners from the Fargo-Moorhead area and 12,000 people across the country. It’s almost like a kindness on top of a kindness since community members get to nominate people they know for their good deeds.

Each month, 100 nominees are drawn at random to receive a Tanks of Thanks gift card worth $50 to use at any Cenex location. In addition to the monthly drawing, Cenex retailers can also give away Tanks of Thanks gift cards to reward individuals they see doing good in their local communities.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I know someone who totally deserves this,” you can nominate them at any time at www.TanksofThanks.com. All you need to do is briefly describe why he or she deserves a Tank of Thanks. I checked it out, and I can promise you, it’s easy – WAY easier than trying to figure out personalized license plates or cryptic business signs.

And if you think you deserve a nomination but are too humble to do it yourself, email me your story, but beware, I’ll probably use it for a future column!

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.