Community

Helping Our Neighbors Recover from Floods

Floodwater leaves its mark on everything it touches. That’s what I found after volunteering with my fellow Walmart associates for two days this week cleaning up flooded homes in San Marcos, Texas. Even after water had drained out of a house, it was still everywhere – soaked into furniture, saturating carpets – and also imprinted on the hearts and minds of the people it has affected.

On Monday, one of my team members at the Walmart supercenter I help manage said that the City of San Marcos was collecting volunteers to help with flood recovery. He asked if there was anything we could do. Having never been through anything like this before, I wasn’t 100% sure. So I asked our store manager, and he couldn’t have been more supportive of us locating associates to volunteer. We headed out the very next day.

On Tuesday, six other associates and I set out to offer help to households that were affected. It didn’t take long before a man stopped us on the street and said he could use our assistance. When we walked in, everything was on the floor. It was very shocking. The flood had scattered their furniture, and there was mud everywhere. Where standing water remained, I saw children’s toys floating. Those are the kinds of images we’re all used to seeing on TV, but it’s a completely different feeling when you’re in the room where it’s happening.

We continued to help for two days – first, for local residents, and next, increasing our group to 18 volunteers for our fellow associates whose homes had been damaged. My store has distributed clothes, toiletries and fans to help with drying, and we gave another valuable resource – our time. I’m not sure if anyone in my group volunteers regularly, but being in such close proximity to flood-affected families, our thoughts immediately turned to anything we could do to make their lives easier.

At our store, we consider both our customers and associates as part of an extended family that supports one another during times of crisis. It makes me very proud to work for a company that supports us in going out and helping people in our community. There is a lot more work to be done, but I know that together we can overcome this natural disaster that has affected so many families here.

 Walmart and the Walmart Foundation recently announced $500,000 in cash and in-kind donations to organizations helping with relief efforts for those affected by the floods in Texas and Oklahoma. You can read more here.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Making Your Favorite Jeans Better for the Planet

Almost everyone has a favorite pair of blue jeans. The ones that fit like a glove, your go-to pair for any occasion.

As we know them today, jeans were the invention of Jacob Davis and his friend, Levi Strauss, who patented the pants in 1873. Since then, jeans have become a huge part of American culture, from cowboys to rebels and rock stars, to hipsters and heads of state. They are a fashion statement and a wardrobe staple.

Blue jeans were once America’s most popular export. They are no longer widely manufactured nor dyed in the U.S. and, while blue jean manufacturing has evolved over the years, the indigo dyeing process has not. Most countries still use the same methods established in the early 1920s.

So, why does this matter? While indigo is a natural, non-toxic dye, the chemicals used to make the color stick to cotton fibers are quite harsh, and the process requires thousands of gallons of water to rinse the chemicals out later.

Recently, the Walmart Foundation, through the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, supported a project at Texas Tech University where researchers are using a foam indigo dyeing technique on cotton fibers. According to Texas Tech, this method, which uses a frothy foam dye designed to penetrate the entire fiber, eliminates the use of harsh chemicals and reduces water and energy usage by nearly 90%. This innovation could be a game changer for denim manufacturers by lowering costs and reducing environmental impacts.

This project’s potential is just now unfolding. And it’s part of a broader effort to grow local economies, and ultimately, create more jobs in communities across the country.

Watch the innovative foam indigo dyeing process in action and hear from the people at Texas Tech University who helped create it.

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Community

‘The Love in the Air is Thicker Than the Smoke’

When Christel Antone went to sleep on Oct. 10, she was worried about her sick grandchild. It wasn’t the only thing on her mind.

For the last two days, she and her neighbors had been threatened by the fires raging throughout Sonoma County, California. A mass evacuation was underway.

At 1 a.m., Christel – a Walmart store co-manager in Rohnert Park, California – woke up to a crying baby and the unmistakable stench of smoke. Something was on fire. Around her house, everything seemed normal. She looked out the windows of her Windsor, California home: To the west, she saw her local Walmart; to the east, mountains. No fire yet – only smoke.

But the fire was coming.

“At that moment, I felt nothing but fear,” Christel said. “Others in the area were being evacuated. So I started getting ready to leave.”

Within two hours, Christel and her husband, two children and grandchild were packed tight into their cars. At 3 a.m., they were part of a mass evacuation – one of thousands of families headed south. They were on the way to her parents’ home in Rohnert Park, normally a 15-minute drive. It took them three hours to reach safety.

Meanwhile, assistant manager Casey Wolven-Scott stood looking at a sea of cars in the Rohnert Park Walmart parking lot. Hundreds of evacuees had only what was on their backs when the time came to leave: kids without shoes, their parents in pajamas. Every one of them tired, afraid and not sure if they would have a home to come back to.

Casey stepped further outside. The highway, which she could see from the store, was flooded with headlights. “Fire truck after fire truck after fire truck was speeding north, up the highway,” Casey said. “Heading south, it was bumper to bumper traffic.”

She decided she had to help her neighbors. “I was one of two people who could run a register,” Casey said. But she had to open the store so people could get basics and use the restroom. Her shift, which had started at 8 p.m. the night before, didn’t end until lunchtime the next day. She saw to it that her store was there for people at this desperate time of need.

A few miles north of the store, at Elsie Allen High School, Christel spent the next day volunteering for those looking for shelter. “We kept hearing alerts and needs for first responders, so we gathered everything we could from my parents’ house, clothes and food, and took it to the high school,” Christel said.

Despite being driven away from her own home, Christel knew she had to help. “At that point you lose all the selfishness and what you’re going through to help others,” she said.

Step by step, Casey and Christel helped with recovery efforts. Christel and her family were able to return to their home within a week. Associates at stores throughout Sonoma County have continued to serve their communities through the fires, in addition to preparing for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Christmas.

“Since then, we’ve been trying to keep in stock what our customers need — housewares, socks, pillows, sleeping bags – these things keep coming in and coming off the shelf right away,” Casey said.

Christel and Casey were two of hundreds of associates who helped pull off a recent episode of The TODAY Show’s “Getting to the Heart of Christmas” series. In recent years, Walmart has had the opportunity to work with NBC to help deliver Christmas for families in need, particularly like the 10 families affected the Sonoma County wild fires earlier this year.

The event brought hundreds of associates, themselves affected by the fire, together to serve their community.

“Everyone here knows someone affected by fire,” Christel said. “Being able to work for a company that’s making a difference in the community, and being part of it personally, is rewarding.”

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Heritage

The Valentine Love Story Behind the Walmart Brand

Before a fledgling family-run retail chain flourished into what it is today, there was a simple and sweet love story.

On Valentine’s Day in 1943, after serving a year of active duty in the Army, Sam Walton married his wife, Helen, in her hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma.

In his book, “Sam Walton: Made in America,” Sam says on an April night in a bowling alley in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he noticed Helen Robson – his future bride – who just happened to be on a date with another fellow.

After she took her turn and rolled her ball down the alley, she saw Sam with his leg up over the armrest of an old chair, with a smile on his face. She recalls Sam’s greeting as being rather “corny.”

Helen said Sam asked if he had met her somewhere before. It turns out Sam had dated a girl Helen knew in college. Instead of asking for Helen’s number, Sam initially asked Helen for the other young woman’s number. However, according to Helen, soon after that encounter, Helen and Sam started dating.

Both Helen and Sam have said they instantly fell in love with each other. Sam said Helen was “pretty and smart, and educated, ambitious and opinionated and strong-willed – with ideas and plans of her own.” After dating for a little while, by the time Sam was called up by the Army for active duty, he said two things were very clear to him: He knew who he wanted to marry Helen, and knew he wanted to go into retail.

From there, the rest of their story went down in the retail history books. “I always told my mother and dad that I was going to marry someone who had that special energy and drive, that desire to be a success,” Helen said. “I certainly found what I was looking for, but now I laugh sometimes and say maybe I overshot a little.”

To commemorate their anniversary, The Walmart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, honors their love every Valentine’s Day with a special flower display.

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Innovation

Your Shopping Trip Just Got Easier with This New Store Assistant

Smartphones have become a vital part of our lives, helping to make virtually everything faster and more convenient. No matter what we’re doing these days, relying on our favorite apps is almost second nature.

That’s why we’ve been applying this kind of thinking to shopping, by building tools and features within the Walmart app to save you time on everything from prescription pickups to merchandise returns. But we also know that we can do even more. This week, we’re releasing a handful of new and improved features to the Walmart app that not only help you get in and out of the store quickly, but also help you before you ever leave the house.

All of these new features come together under something else that’s new: a totally re-imagined experience for in-store shopping called Store Assistant. Next time you visit your local store and open the app, you’ll notice that the Walmart app transforms into Store Assistant. All of the tools you need to make shopping fast and easy, such as Walmart Pay, will be right at your fingertips. We’ve also made the product search bar and the scanner easier to find, so you can quickly read reviews, find items in store and double-check prices.

Pretty neat, right? Now, let’s dive into the other new features that are part of Store Assistant:

  1. Smarter, Better Lists: Eighty percent of Walmart customers make a list before coming to the store, so we’ve made list-building within the app more convenient for you – like the ability to enter a custom term like “milk” (in other words, no need to pick an exact item match) and check item stock at your local store. The total cart – plus tax – will now be calculated as you make your list, allowing you to see the cost of your basket before even stepping foot inside the store. Store Assistant makes your list easily accessible, so you can see what aisle the items are located in, as well as cross off and add items as you go.
  2. Improved Store Navigation with Store Maps: We’re creating a map unique to each and every one of our stores – and with over 4,700 of them, this is going to be a real game-changer. These maps will help you find where an item is located, down to the aisle and shelf area. Store Maps is already available for a handful of stores, and we’re rolling it out to the rest of our stores just as fast as we can.
  3. Even More Store Information: You can now easily check whether a store has a department like a Photo Center or Auto Care Center and see department hours and phone numbers. We’ve also taken this a step further by adding other valuable information – such as checking for things like Rug Doctor availability – to make your store shopping even easier.

Of course, these are just the updates we’re launching this week; there’s much more to come. Imagine dropping pins on a store map tied to the location of items on your list, enabling you to plan your route through our stores, or the ability to book services like an oil change in advance. Imagine even smarter lists … maybe so smart that you’ll hardly have to make them!

We’re building a shopping tool unlike any other in retail – and one that makes virtually every element of the store shopping experience faster and more convenient for you. We’re excited about the Walmart app updates we’re launching this week, but we’re even more excited about what’s to come. With the Walmart app, shopping our stores is seamless, easy – and pretty darn cool.

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