Business

It’s Time to Thank Teachers Across America

Most of us can recall a teacher who helped us learn, change and grow. For me, there were several, but there’s one who particularly stands out: my mom.

Her resume alone commands respect: She’s taught kindergarten at a rural elementary school since the 1970s. That means that every year, she not only ensures that students learn the basics like numbers and letters – she also shapes a gaggle of fresh-eyed, boundlessly energetic 5-year-olds into polite and productive members of society.

For some students, she may be the first educational influence they’ve experienced, and she takes that responsibility very seriously. When I lived at home, I remember her working countless nights not just grading papers, but also building and creating projects and materials that would give her class an extra boost. All that required was her own extra time, which she didn’t have much of, being a single mother to my sister and me.

So when Walmart announced Teacher Appreciation Week, I couldn’t wait to tell her about it. Through the program, which is happening now through July 31, she and other educators across the U.S. can receive 10% savings on classroom supplies. Over the years, going the extra mile for her class has sometimes meant digging into her own pocket, so I knew she would appreciate the discount. “Every little bit helps,” she replied when I shared the news.

This is the first year for Teacher Appreciation Week, but Walmart has been showing its support of educators for many years. The Walmart Foundation has a Teacher Rewards program, where all Sam’s Club, Walmart stores and distribution centers nationwide give gift cards to local schools to help teachers stock their classrooms. And for the third year, our online tool Classrooms by Walmart provides a convenient way for teachers to share supply lists with new students – and even create classroom wish lists of their own.

I’m proud that after all these years, families in my small town still request to have their kids enrolled in my mom’s class. There are stories like hers in schools in every state, and it’s the perfect time to let those teachers know how big of an impact they’ve truly had.

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Community

Among the Essentials, a Delivery of Hope

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, David Simmons’ first thought wasn’t the minor damage to his home in Mississippi. It was calling the Walmart dispatch station to see how he could help through his job as a truck driver.

He was sure there was plenty of emergency freight that had to be delivered, but that wasn’t a request he was met with on the other end of the line. The operator instead asked how his family fared in the storm, and told him to stay home and take care of his property as there were drivers coming from all over to assist with the recovery.

Later, he did get a chance to help – hauling donated merchandise for the Salvation Army – and says that it remains to this day one of the most fulfilling moments of his driving career.

“From food, clothing and water to even roofing materials, it was all needed and appreciated by the residents of the Gulf Coast,” David said.

Rickey Oliver, too, remembers Katrina as a moment he was proud to work for Walmart. One of the drivers who participated in a convoy of trucks that waited to enter one of the most heavily damaged areas of New Orleans, Rickey thought for a moment that the abandoned-looking area around him was actually empty. 

A man proudly holds a 2005 image of Walmart trucks waiting to enter affected areas of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina

“To my amazement, like in the movie Field of Dreams they came, walking in from every street, every corner, out of buildings I thought for sure no one would be in. All hungry and thirsty and desperate for help, and we … were the help,” Rickey said. “I don’t think a person can truly express the feeling or the honor one receives in doing this kind of thing.”

Gary Mars, another Walmart driver who was part of that same convoy, feels the same way. Carrying water, generators, and food – plus ice, important during hot August weather in Louisiana – was a critical role to fill.

“I remember the sense of pride I felt as we convoyed into New Orleans and surrounding cities, as nearly every vehicle we met was waving at us as we passed, and several had makeshift signs saying, ‘Thank you, Walmart,’” Gary said. “I was relatively new to Walmart, but I knew at that point that this was a place to permanently call home. It’s amazing to me just how quick lives can change, just in a moment. It’s very humbling.” 

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Business

Hello, Kenya! 6 Facts About Our Newest Market

I recently visited Nairobi, Walmart’s newest retail market, and had the opportunity to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and events surrounding President Obama’s recent visit to Kenya. Besides meeting the President (it was awesome!) and moderating a panel discussion on how small and medium size suppliers can access Walmart’s global supply chain, I also participated in a graduation ceremony with 40 trainees from EARN, the Walmart Foundation’s retail training program, toured our new Game store in Nairobi and met our four local International Procurement Logistics (IPL) associates.  After my week spent in the area, I learned a few things about our new market:

1.       The two official languages in Kenya are English and Swahili. We had a great guide around Nairobi who told us to call him Peter, but his Swahili name was Towet.

2.       Agriculture is important to Kenya's economy, and Walmart’s sourcing arm, International Procurement Logistics, purchases vegetables and flowers from Kenya for Walmart stores around the world.

3.       In Africa, our subsidiary is Massmart, and we operate stores under multiple banners, including Game, DionWired, Makro, Jumbo, Builders and others.

Shelley Broader and a large group of students pose together on stage

4.       Our first store in Kenya is a Game store, a general merchandise store with grocery, serving the capital city of Nairobi with more than 3.1 million people.

5.       Kenya gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1963, but some traditions from the U.K. still persist, like a love for tea.  In most meetings I attended, tea was offered instead of coffee.

6.       Kenya is known for its parks and wildlife sightings – no coincidence that the best-selling category at our Nairobi Game store is camping gear.

Walmart serves 27 countries outside the U.S. with more than 6,100 stores under 65 banners.  Every trip I take allows me to learn more about the markets we serve and the people who shop with us, as well as the good Walmart can bring to the communities we call home. 

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One Nurse, 16 Infants, and a Storm’s Ultimate Test

Medea Gabriel is not a hero, she insists.

During Hurricane Katrina, there were many others she believes are equally deserving of that title. Her fellow medical staff at New Orleans Memorial Medical Center who worked while separated from their families. Her best friend, Monique, who took Medea’s ailing mother to evacuate on her own. Also, the strangers she remembers driving their personal boats to pick up patients and staff from the hospital and navigate them to dry land.

But as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit, Medea helped wrap up 16 babies and move them to shelter through a hole in the wall that led to a truck bed. The truck bed was to take them to a helicopter and then, safety, but once Medea passed each infant through the wall, she had no idea if outside realities would let that happen.

Today, she knows that nearly all of those babies somehow survived on the way to their destination, Baton Rouge Women’s Hospital. While one of them did pass away, she doesn’t know how or when, because that hospital has since closed. She recently got a Facebook message from one of the mothers who wanted to thank her for what she did that day.

“It was surreal to know how much I impacted her life and that she remembered me,” Medea said. “Just knowing that these kids are now 10 years old lets me go on.”

Photo shows the inside of a neonatal intensive care unit

When Medea transported those infants that day, she says she was simply doing her job. Once the job was complete, she turned her full attention toward her mother, whom she sent with her best friend to get on a boat to safety. She had to pack up her mother’s medicine, waterproof her medical records and dosage instructions and staple them to the inside of her mother’s clothes so they didn’t get lost. She then sent her two loved ones off to stay with a college roommate whom she believed in her heart would take them in, but she didn’t know for sure. It was the second big moment that day where she had to simply act.

Thankfully, two days later – after Medea herself had to leave the hospital not knowing her next resting place – she found out that her mother was, in fact, alive.

While many things have changed for Medea since then, like a new job and also a new husband, she has returned home to New Orleans and works with pediatric patients once again, this time doing HIV research.

“I’m in a totally different place than I was before Katrina,” she said. “I’ve found peace and joy in this recovery.”

Editor’s Note: You can hear more of Medea’s story in a four-part podcast created by Good360, a disaster relief organization that works to improve the way communities can connect with much-needed supplies.    

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Community

With Grit and Heart, Two Mississippi Stores Return

Pass Christian, Mississippi, is a small town of only a few thousand people, but it has always been a huge part of Kim Claycomb’s life. It’s where she grew up and went to high school, and later built a career at the local Walmart.

In the last few days of August 2005, Kim’s community was forever changed as Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Kim’s home was damaged, not destroyed, but her workplace – the supercenter she and her colleagues affectionately named “The Store by the Shore,” was ruined beyond repair.

After the storm hit, many Walmart associates went to work at other stores. Several in the Pass Christian area headed to another nearby small community, Waveland, to serve local residents in a makeshift store they created inside a tent in the parking lot.

Today, Kim works at a Neighborhood Market in Gulfport, but as her store in Pass Christian was being reconstructed, she drove by every day and took photos of its progress. When the building was complete, she recalled the mayor talking excitedly about the grand opening on the local news.

“I never thought a Walmart would have that big of an impact, but it did,” Kim said. “Seeing customers who remembered us from before … those people are like family to me. Coming back was a big deal.”

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