Special delivery for Meals on Wheels

Last Thursday, Margaret Popko opened her front door to receive her lunch. But it wasn’t a normal delivery, just like Margaret isn’t a normal Meals On Wheels recipient.

Jimmy Carter was president, Laverne & Shirley was the most watched television show and Star Wars was the nation’s biggest film when Margaret first volunteered for the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania.

She spent 36 years in a small church kitchen in Clairton, about 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh. Like all of our volunteers, Margaret wanted to lend a hand to people in the community who aren’t able to grocery shop or cook for themselves.

A few months ago, she was no longer able to make it into the kitchen on a regular basis. At age 95, she joined the nearly 1,000 individuals who receive a meal from us every day.

But there was a problem: our Meals On Wheels kitchen was short on wheels.

Individual volunteers had to use their own cars to transport food from the nearby food bank to our kitchens, and from our kitchen to hundreds of homes throughout the region. It limited how many people like Margaret we were able to serve.

We needed help. Se we applied for a grant through the Walmart Foundation. A few months later, as part of Walmart’s $2 billion commitment to end hunger in the United States, the Foundation awarded us a $65,000 grant to purchase a delivery vehicle.

We officially unveiled the new van on Thursday. Several Walmart associates helped in the kitchen earlier that day.

The decision of who should receive the inaugural meal was an easy one.  

Store Manager Ed Protiva from the nearby Walmart greeted Margaret at her door. Our brand new van was parked on the street outside.

“That should make things easier!” Margaret said. “It looks good.”

From Clairton the van went on to deliver food for individuals in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Mercer counties.

A single meal may not seem like much, but each and every delivery we make is a connection, a conversation, and a helping hand that people depend on. Walmart’s dedication to our community makes a big difference to us, and makes it possible for use to serve more people like Margaret.

Patty Davidson is the Chief Development Officer of the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pa. To learn more about LSSWPA or to volunteer for the Meals On Wheels program, please visit



As Customers Change, So Has Cyber Monday

Last weekend, my son innocently asked me, “What was it like before Wi-Fi?” The question gave me serious pause – I remember when I was young asking my own parents what it was like before television.  How quickly things have changed. 

It may be hard to remember now, but there was a time when Wi-Fi wasn’t so widespread. We didn’t have high-speed Internet access at home. And when it came to continuing holiday shopping after Black Friday, many of us waited until Monday to take advantage of the dependable, faster connection at work. And as millions of customers did just that, Cyber Monday was born.

Over the years, it’s become huge. The biggest online shopping day of the year for us. And yes, millions of customers still shop on Monday morning, opting for clicks and carts versus email and spreadsheets. But as faster Internet speeds have become ubiquitous, and as mobile has swept across the landscape, connecting even more Americans to the Internet whenever they wanted, so many of them have felt compelled to stay awake past midnight to access the best specials the moment they were posted.

But it’s 2015 now, and as we’re increasingly able to access the Internet anytime, anywhere, there’s less of a reason to have to stay up late or fit our shopping into the workday. We can do it when and how we like.

At Walmart, our research shows this interesting find:

That’s why this year, we’re starting our Cyber Monday hours earlier on Sunday evening, making it easier for customers to get ahead on saving money during the busiest online shopping day of the year. Historically, when Walmart released select Cyber Monday deals on Sunday evening, our website traffic increased significantly. Customers have changed, but until now, Cyber Monday hasn’t really changed with them. We’re making shopping faster and easier, all season long.

Maybe at some point in the future, the next generation may ask with wide-eyed disbelief, “Did you really stay up past midnight to shop online?”

Be the first to comment on this article


How a Veteran-Owned Business Reached New Heights

When faced with any uphill battle, Andrew Kratz is ready for the climb. A husband, father of five children and former Force Recon Marine, Andrew has a lifelong passion for adventure and adrenaline.

In 2007, Andrew joined forces with fellow marine Luis Jauregui to invest this passion into Triangle Rock Club, an indoor rock climbing center in Morrisville, North Carolina. In a nation where only 1 of every 5 small businesses survives beyond three years, Andrew’s military background gave him the confidence to build TRC into one of North Carolina’s most respected local businesses.

Today TRC has expanded to three club locations with 47,000 square feet of climbing walls. Thousands of members belay with confidence thanks to a dedicated team of coaches and staff. This summer, TRC received several accolades from North Carolina media, the SBA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which named TRC as the 2015 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year.

Helping Andrew get there was Joel Graybeal, a banker and recreational climber who offered occasional financial advice from the ropes. In 2012, he became a managing partner of TRC, organizing finances and marketing activity. Where Andrew had drive, perseverance and vision, he admits that Joel brought the financial piece, the business and professionalism of running a corporation.

"Andrew taught me that we are all capable of achieving more. When you’re completely exhausted, you’ve still got at least 60% capacity in your tank," Joel said. “There is no time for complacency in rock climbing nor business. Every day we do something that moves the business forward: Improve a process, train a person. When you aggregate one step after another, you cover a lot of ground and rise to the top.”

Today these two keep climbing, but haven’t reached their peak. Andrew and Joel focus on enhancing the value of TRC membership in a way that is community-based – creating an athletic, fun climbing experience that relies on teamwork.

Andrew’s tips for aspiring entrepreneurs:

  1. Keep looking up: “Focus your fear upwards. You only have so many hours and so much energy, so if you’re focusing your energy on failure rather than succeeding, you cannot succeed. As a marine, the quintessential rule is there is no line of retreat. Our goal and only option is success.”
  2. Get comfortable with the unknown: “Learning leadership skills gave me the confidence to step into uncharted waters to start a business. If you’re comfortable with the fact that you’re in over your head – in foreign terrain able to operate in uncharted waters – you can run a business.”
  3. Build a great team: “The military community gave me two key skill sets: leadership and first appearance. When hiring for teammates at TRC, I look to a person’s confidence and intangible skills and lean on them. Find the right people that reflect your moral fiber and fulfill your weaknesses with their strengths.”

The Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam’s Club, celebrates the success of small business and its role in economic growth. You can nominate a veteran-owned small business – or any qualifying business owner – for this year’s award through Jan. 8, 2016. Enter here.

Be the first to comment on this article


2 Dreams, 2 Degrees, and 1 Unconventional Path

Like most moms, Lisa Moore has always bent over backward to put her son Joseph “Joey” Moore in a position to make his dreams come true. But there was one such dream that weighed especially heavy on her.

“I’ll never forget the day Joey came to me and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,’” Lisa said. “He was only 11 years old when he told me, but his mind was made up. I wanted to help make it happen but, as a single mother, I honestly didn't know where the money was going to come from.”

When Joey neared the end of high school, Lisa’s manager at the Walmart store in Mooresville, N.C. where she worked turned her onto the Associate and Dependent Scholarship Programs offered by the Walmart Foundation. Not only could associates like Lisa apply for scholarship assistance, but so could their high school senior dependents.

That was 2007.  Joey applied for and received a scholarship, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  And he’s used his chemistry degree to springboard into a successful career with Henkel Corporation.

But that isn't where the story ends with the Moore family.

“It wasn’t long before Joey started telling me I could do the same thing – that it's never too late to go to college,” said Lisa, 52. “A light came on inside me.”

Already a pastor at Scott’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Statesville, N.C., Lisa recently decided to apply to the Associate Scholarship Program to help finance her enrollment at Hood Theological Seminary School. She, like her son, was awarded a scholarship and is on track to graduate in 2018 with her Masters of Divinity degree. At that point, she plans to focus her efforts full time on the church, pursuing her dream of becoming an elder and possibly even a chaplain.

And she has quite the cheering section behind her.

“There are so many people lifting me up and cheering me on,” Lisa said. That’s why I’ve been with Walmart for 16 years. My job at Walmart has helped put a roof over my head and raise my son, and now it has [helped to support] both of our college educations.

“When I enrolled in seminary, Walmart allowed me to cut back some of my hours to concentrate on school,” she said. “Walmart has always been flexible with my schedule, no matter what was happening in my life and I’m so thankful for that. I’m the biggest cheerleader for this company, not just because of the scholarship program, but because of how it has looked out for me and my family.”

For more than three decades, the Walmart Foundation has made resources available to help U.S. associates and their high school senior dependents fulfill their educational goals through scholarships. More information is available here. 



‘Thank You Very Much, I Don’t Need Your Help Anymore’

The early ’80s were really tough for my family. I had two babies and no income. But after I got a job, things started changing for the better.

Back in 1984, I knew I wanted to work for my local Walmart in Pearsall, Texas, but I was pregnant with my second child at the time. I figured after having my baby, I would apply for a job. The only downfall was everyone kept telling me, “You need a GED to get into Walmart.” I didn’t have one, so I held back.

Later, in 1986, I found out that you don’t need a GED to apply. As a matter of fact, the company will help you get a GED. I took a chance and spoke with the store manager. After filling out an application and taking an assessment, I headed to my mom’s house to let her know I used her phone number as my contact.

I will never forget, it was a Wednesday. As I pulled up at my mom’s house, she came outside with a big grin and said, “Walmart just called. They want you there Saturday at 1 o’clock.”

From then on, my life changed every day – it was getting easier. One of the best feelings in the world was being able to write a letter to the food stamp office saying, “Thank you very much, but I don’t need your help anymore.” I could make it by myself. So when outside groups perform media stunts and attempt to speak for me and my fellow associates who work hard every day to build better lives, I find it incredibly offensive.

My first job was as a cashier, and by putting in my part, I’ve worked my way up to assistant manager. I was promoted to customer service manager after just three months on the job at the most. From there, I became a floater to learn more about the store and then moved on to department manager, first over stationery and later to men’s, boys’, girls’ and infants’ apparel. After five years in that position, I became a support manager – a job I enjoyed for the longest time before finally accepting the offer to be an assistant manager.

There have been a lot of obstacles along the way, and a third child, but thanks to my determination and a good company, I didn’t quit.

One of my sons, Mario, is following in my footsteps. He started as a pharmacy cashier at age 16 and moved up from there. Now, nearly 15 years later, he’s an assistant manager, too.

When people ask me about Walmart, I use my life as an example. I didn’t graduate, but you know what, this company believed in me. And after nearly 30 years, I don’t give back any less than I did when I started.

The sky’s the limit, but I believe it’s up to you to want it.

Editor’s Note: This post is an update to this video, where Noemi first shared her story with us.

1 Comment