Community

From Katrina to Flint, Using Our Strengths to Help

The day Hurricane Katrina made landfall, I found myself being pulled into a meeting with one of the early responders: Walmart.

As a Red Cross employee, I had the opportunity to serve as a liaison between the Red Cross and Walmart and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had it set in my mind that the conversation would probably focus on the disaster’s impact on the stores or the impact it was going to have on the bottom line. I could not have been more wrong.

Those in the room had one thing on their minds: helping their associates and their families. They asked questions like, “Is our Walmart family safe? Are we doing what we need to do to make sure they have access to their benefits and paychecks? How can we ensure they keep their jobs?” Seeing this play out in person, I jumped at the chance to join Walmart the following year, and just over 10 years later I’m now helping to lead global disaster response and preparedness initiatives for Walmart and the Walmart Foundation.

I remember it clearly. A fleet of Walmart trucks lined the highway, each filled with the supplies that would eventually stock “pop-up” stores that sprung up throughout New Orleans. Food and water, even hygiene products, were all made readily available to anyone who needed it. The experience of Katrina showed us that we had an incredible opportunity to draw on our strengths – our presence in thousands of communities; our associates’ compassion and expertise; the ability to source life-sustaining products such as food and water; our logistics and operations capabilities; our philanthropy; and our relationships with other community leaders – to help out our neighbors when they needed it most.

Fast forward 10 years and enter Flint, Michigan, Store Manager Beth Harris. Beth was calling about a rising issue that Flint was facing – a water crisis like no other – and she saw a way that we could lend a helping hand. With help from other companies, we set out to help make sure Flint’s kids had constant access to safe drinking water by committing millions of bottles of water to Flint’s school systems. Turns out the rest of the country felt the same way, as Flint schools were overwhelmed by similar donations. So much that they were forced to convert classrooms into makeshift storage rooms.

Given Walmart’s large logistics and warehousing network, we saw a new opportunity for us to assist. Over a period of months, we researched the workable options and found a partner in the state of Michigan to secure nearby storage warehouses and worked out a delivery system to individual schools. This allowed the schools to get kids back in their classrooms and learning. But we didn’t stop there.

Literally millions of plastic bottles were flowing into the community, so without a recycling program in place in Flint, all those bottles would soon convert into waste. So again, we worked with a coalition of partners to ensure all Flint schools had access to a recycling program that will help alleviate the burden of waste and engage a new generation of recyclers.

While the circumstances of every disaster are unique, we are uniquely positioned to meet the evolving needs of the communities impacted. It truly is wonderful that we are able to do so much, but it’s not just Walmart. We have countless partners that play just as an important a role in serving our communities when they need it most.

Ten years ago, I learned about Walmart’s culture. Today, I’m proud to be a part of it.

Learn more about how Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have given back by checking out our recently released 2016 giving report.

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Sustainability

One Company is Helping Keep Walmart and Our Communities in the ‘Green’

Glenn H. Garrett set a standard for protecting community waterways long before “going green” became a common refrain.

In 1996, after witnessing the damage left behind by hurricanes earlier that year, the disabled Marine Corps veteran launched his own business, Retention Pond Services, in his hometown of Wilmington, N.C.

The storms had destroyed the basins that hold stormwater and they were overflowing. Glenn decided to do something about it. Luckily, four years in the Marine Corps – from 1980 to 1984 – prepared him for the hard work ahead.

“It’s not glamorous, not high tech. It’s done with good, old-fashioned manpower,” he said of his business.

Glenn developed a relationship with Walmart in 2002 when a store in Wilmington had a runoff issue in the parking lot. Walmart’s construction division called the state’s stormwater regulators and asked for a recommendation on whom to hire for help. Retention Pond Services was their answer.

When the same issue happened again, this time at another store, Walmart decided to expand the maintenance procedures developed with Glenn’s company. From there, it went nationwide.

Retention Pond Services now repairs, maintains and services stormwater systems for 1,200 Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs across the U.S. The goal is to help Walmart meet rules and regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency and reduce the risk of water pollution.

“I remember my first meeting with Walmart [representatives], and they started talking about being ‘green’. I had never heard anyone talk about green – being environmentally conscious,” he said, adding that the retailer encourages suppliers to be responsible by leading by example.

He didn’t realize it at the time, but Glenn and his company would play a major role in bringing that to fruition. He said Walmart has become a standard bearer of stormwater maintenance for big-box retailers throughout the U.S.

Retention Pond Services began with 16 employees. Fast-forward 20 years and it now employs as many as 250 workers each year, including Glenn and three other senior leaders, with clients ranging from retailers to municipalities. The number fluctuates with the seasons, but one thing remains constant – there are always military veterans like Glenn on staff. Several veterans started in junior positions and moved up through the ranks.

The business was hiring veterans before Walmart introduced its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment in 2013, but Glenn said the initiative is a great encouragement for suppliers and veterans alike. “It goes back to [Walmart] recognizing our service and appreciating what we’ve done,” he said. As a veteran himself, Glenn knows that the skills and can-do attitude learned in the military easily transfer over to civilian jobs. Glenn takes pride in his team – “I’m only as good as my worst employee” – and in protecting the environment. Much of that pride stems from his childhood in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

“My grandfather used to tell me how great fishing was – about catching massive fish. When I was growing up, there were no fish. The bay was essentially dead, killed by pollution and runoff.”

In the 1970s, Maryland got involved in a save-the-bay campaign, and the federal government’s Water Quality Act followed in 1987. Those actions helped return fishing in the bay to its former glory.

Caring for the environment comes at a cost, whether it be time or money, but the results are well worth it. As U.S. businesses continue to grow, Glenn and his team are ready to step in and protect our communities.

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Community

How a Passion to Help Inspired a 545-Mile Journey

In the late ’90s, while working my way through college at cafes and juice bars, I had a boss who I considered a friend. He was kind, driven and taught me a lot about hard work.

I’ll never forget the day he confided in me that he was HIV positive. This news jolted me because I was well aware of the disease and how it devastated so many people since the 80s. Had he not told me he was HIV positive, I would have been completely oblivious to this fact, as he showed no signs of having HIV – something I later learned was a stigma that is often attached to those who identify as being HIV positive.

A while later, at another job, I remember seeing street signs posted nearby about the annual AIDS Walk, an event that takes place in many large cities across the U.S. and raises awareness and funding to battle HIV/AIDS. Until then, I’d never thought about helping out – but this time was different. I decided to hand-paint a sign asking for donations and put it up in the juice bar where I worked. In only two days, I’d raised $450 just by painting a sign and committing to going for a walk.

That year I set out on the AIDS Walk by myself, but I met a lot of amazing people. They were all there for their own reasons, but also to make a difference – just like me. This was the moment I realized the impact one person can make. Together we raised thousands of dollars for the effort. I’m no hero, but I knew then that I can help save lives – just by doing something as simple as walking.

In 2010, I joined Walmart as a freelance designer. I later transitioned to a full-time associate, and eventually became the creative director of design for Walmart.com. I learned about the company’s core values, including the importance of giving back personally, professionally and institutionally. At Walmart, I knew I could make an even bigger impact with my community service efforts.

This will be my eighth year to give back by riding in AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC), an annual seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The mission is simple – by committing to ride a bicycle and raise money through donations, we help provide funding and services for those living with HIV/AIDS. In 2014, I helped start and lead Team Walmart which had 19 riders in the event and raised $127,000. Each year, we’ve continued to grow, and this year, we have over 60 riders from across the country, including six from Jet.com and one from Bentonville.

In four years, our team has raised over $800,000 for ALC. This year, Team Walmart/Jet.com has a goal of raising $500,000 – a lofty goal, but it’s a critical mission of giving back and doing what’s right in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This mission isn’t about me or any one person who’s participating in ALC – we all ride or volunteer in ALC for our own personal reasons, but we collectively stand together in giving back for a cause that’s bigger than us all.

The impact of one continues – except now it’s on my bike, and as one united team.

Danny Baker, above, an 8-time rider with AIDS/LifeCycle and a 4-year member of Team Walmart/Jet.com’s ALC team, was recently recognized by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation with the Ovation Award for personally raising over $50,000 with ALC.

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Opportunity

Retired Store Manager Fashions Second Career Out of Dreams and Opportunity

Sometimes it’s not enough to follow your dreams. You also need someone else to see your potential.

My career at Walmart was a dream – so unanticipated! And that set me up to follow yet another dream. After nearly 20 years, I retired Feb. 17 as manager of supercenter #2914 in Massillon, Ohio, to start my own business as a fashion stylist – something I’ve been passionate about for years – and to spend more time with my precious family.

I have long had an interest in fashion, starting back when my mother was a seamstress and would create her own designs as I was growing up. Most of my wardrobe was handmade by her! I always loved how wearing something special made me feel. Working at Walmart, particularly with women, rekindled a passion in me to witness the impact of dressing well. Increased confidence, better communication, direct eye contact – we all know how that feels. Feeling positive about ourselves can be transformational.

My retail career had simple beginnings in 1997, when I was a stay-at-home mom with five small children in a single-income family. That August I was looking to get a little extra money for Christmas and applied for the first clock-in-and-out job of my life. Walmart hired me as a temporary associate despite my having dropped out of college to start a family and having zero experience in retail. I never would have dreamed I’d take a job stocking store shelves overnight and end up managing 500 people.

This company backed me every step of the way, seeing and believing in a potential I didn't recognize. One of my first store managers took a significant interest in challenging and pushing me to see opportunities that existed. It taught me how important the human touch can be.

I remember one young man who was doing a really good job as an hourly supervisor at my store. Not long after we talked about his potential, he put his job in jeopardy by clocking in late on multiple days. Instead of giving up on him, his direct supervisor asked him what was going on. He shared that his car had broken down, and with no other transportation he’d had to walk the four miles to and from the store. After hearing this, I bought him a bicycle to help put him back on the right track. He ended up going into a management program and is doing really well today.

As for me, my story has come full circle. Walmart not only gave me the acumen and process to run my own business, it also gave my husband and me the financial security to start this second phase of our lives. My baby was in kindergarten when I started my career, and now all my children are grown and college-educated. Freedom in my schedule allows me to be a stay-at-home grandma to five grandchildren.

Having been at the Massillon supercenter for the last four years, it was bittersweet to turn over my keys and the responsibility. But, I’m excited to continue being a cheerleader from the outside. The people I hired are going to go even further than I did with the belief they can have limitless careers.

Photos courtesy of Massillon Independent.

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Business

‘Outside the Box’ Breaks Down Blockchain

“Blockchain” is one of the latest business buzzwords making its way around the internet. But this is one word you won’t want to ignore.

Technology is improving the retail experience in ways you may have never imagined. And when it comes to food safety, we can see the way of the future. In Episode 2 of our podcast, Outside the Box, our guests will help break down how blockchain is improving supply chain – and in some cases, saving lives.

“Breaking Down Blockchain” features Brigid McDermott, Vice President of Business Development for Blockchain at IBM. She’s responsible for driving the growth of blockchain, an emerging platform that can radically improve banking, supply chain and other transaction networks. You’ll also hear from Frank Yiannas, Vice President of Food Safety at Walmart.

Outside the Box is our chance to bring together some of today’s most brilliant thought leaders, innovators and visionaries to talk about the retail industry and the roles it plays in society and the global economy.

Future episodes will explore topics such as “The Workforce of the Future,” where industry experts dissect the issues that will face employees in the coming years, and “U.S. Manufacturing, where we’ll talk to a business analyst, a merchandise supplier and a government official about the challenges and benefits of making products in the United States.

If you’re a business owner, an entrepreneur, a maker, a doer, a consumer – anyone! — this podcast is for you.

Learn more about the series and subscribe, and tell us what you think in the comments below.

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