Community

Giving Veterans a New Mission With Team Rubicon

Roughly 100 volunteers, covered in mud and sweat, were packed into a junior high school gymnasium in Wimberley, Texas. They’d just returned from a sunrise to sunset day of mucking out homes in a community devastated by flooding.

It was their job to help begin the recovery process – to salvage what they could of people’s lives and property. And this was their resting place for the evening. Portable cots, lined up, one beside another across a hardwood floor.

For them, this was hardly an inconvenience. In fact, it brought back memories of the military brigades they rallied with when in uniform. But for the next several days, there would be no battlefields. Instead, they were uniting their unique skillsets – their abilities to get into, adapt to, and thrive in disaster zones – to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

This was an honor. This was their new calling.

Over the past five years, thousands of other U.S. military veterans and first responders have deployed to more than 100 disasters – from hurricanes and earthquakes to floods and tornadoes – around the world as a part of Team Rubicon. What began with a team of eight, led by two marines putting their experience to work in response to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, has grown into something special. Today, Team Rubicon has nearly 30,000 volunteers organized into 10 geographic regions across the country, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. 

By tapping their unique skills and offering training programs – which range from risk assessment and heavy equipment operation to firefighting and suicide prevention expertise – Team Rubicon increases the efficiency of disaster response efforts. The nonprofit organization also provides veterans with the sense of purpose, community and identity they need in order to transition successfully to civilian life. 

Their designated geographic regions mirror the FEMA organizational model and – when combined with Team Rubicon’s adoption of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) – allow them to rapidly deploy crisis response teams within hours of disasters happening. Team Rubicon’s adoption of FEMA’s NIMS standard is unique and is not required of nonprofit organizations. But because it’s the national standard for response, Team Rubicon has committed to it. This provides the organization the ability to communicate and interact with federal, state and county agencies in a manner that many other nonprofits cannot.

To further differentiate themselves, they’ve also developed a highly trained Incident Management Team (IMT) to build capacity among volunteer leaders in all 10 regions. IMT training, made possible through the financial support of organizations like Walmart, consists of advanced disaster relief concepts, leadership, culture, history, community cost recovery, technology systems, emergency management position cross-training and more.

They believe their track record on the scene of disasters around the world speaks for itself. But it's just as rewarding to see what these opportunities have brought to the lives of veterans along the way. According to a recent internal survey, 80% of volunteers are more satisfied with life following a deployment to a disaster zone with Team Rubicon. Nearly 97% feel a sense of community from being part of the team.

Team Rubicon is more than a team. The fact so many of their volunteers have tattooed the Team Rubicon logo on their bodies makes that immediately obvious. Name another service organization whose members permanently wear the logo. While their commitment to purpose and community drives their members’ sense of identity, it has certainly taken on a life of its own.



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Business

Meet the Families Behind Our Grass-Fed Beef

They say you are what you eat.

When we shop to feed our families, we’re especially concerned with what’s in the food we’re buying and where it came from. Thanks to two cattle ranching families who came together years ago to farm grass-fed beef in Utah and Wyoming, we’re able to provide this option – our Marketside Butcher brand – at over 2,000 of our stores.

It’s important to do business with people who care about their customers as much as we do. Working with Jones Creek, that care is obvious. The Crandall family has been farming cattle on their ranches in Utah and Wyoming for over five generations, and they’re committed to a product that’s as natural as it is tasty.

Check out this video to see why they believe in producing beef with no added hormones or antibiotics, but lots of passion and care.

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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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Innovation

The Opioid Epidemic Has Changed Safe Disposal of Prescriptions

The opioid epidemic is as serious of a drug crisis as America’s ever seen. It’s so deep-reaching that nearly every community has felt its effects.

And while prescription pain medications are an appropriate treatment option for some, the reality is that unchecked supplies in the public pose a significant health concern. Just as prescription drugs should be prescribed carefully, they must be stored and disposed of carefully.

Providing a means for proper drug disposal is a fundamental way Walmart can help. Today, we announced a new, free, convenient solution for responsible opioid disposal, DisposeRx. It’s a first-of-its-kind solution and I’m so proud of our team and the work they’ve done to bring this simple means of disposal to our patients.

We know the person who was prescribed a prescription opioid medication isn’t always the only one who is at risk for misuse. This innovative option for medication disposal will help keep families and communities healthy, and DisposeRx is one more way we can make a difference.

Here are a few more reasons why we wanted to help with this critical issue.

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Business

CEO Doug McMillon's Note to Associates on Tax Savings

Happy New Year! I hope you and your families had a great holiday season. Thank you so much for all your efforts to serve our customers during our busiest time of the year. I know there were many smiling faces on Christmas morning and throughout the season because of you. Thank you for serving them so well and for helping each other to do it as a team.

We’ve got some really good news to share today. As you know, the President and Congress have approved a lower business tax rate. Given these changes, we have an opportunity to accelerate a few pieces of our investment plan. We plan to continue investing in you, in our customers through lower prices, and in our future--especially in technology to help improve your jobs and the experience for our customers.

So, we’re pleased to tell you that we’re raising our starting wage to $11 an hour for Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club, Supply Chain, eCommerce and Home Office hourly associates effective in February.

We’re also providing a one-time bonus to hourly associates that pays a larger amount the longer you’ve been with our company. Associates that don’t benefit from the new starting wage increase are eligible for the bonus and it will range from $200 to $1,000 depending on your length of service. As an associate who’s been with the company more than 25 years, I understand the value of experience and we all appreciate those of you that have helped build this company over the years.

I’m also excited to tell you that we’re making an important change to benefits by expanding our paid leave policy to provide full-time hourly associates with 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. This expanded parental leave also applies to salaried associates and to parents who adopt. We will also contribute $5,000 to the cost of adoption. I recently heard from two associates on this topic—one through an open door note and one at a town hall. Both pointed out how limited our policy was for adoptive parents so we’re happy to be addressing that concern now. Families are a priority to us and connecting with and caring for a new family member is obviously important.

As we look to the future and how we’ll win with customers, we’ll be assessing what additional investments are needed, and we’ll make those decisions with you, our customers, and our shareholders in mind.

Thanks again for everything you do. I’m proud of our progress and we have momentum. Let’s build on that in 2018!

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