This week, Walmart joined with Coca-Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo to provide clean water to more than 10,000 public school students in Flint, Michigan. But months before, many local associates were already jumping in to help. Recently, we learned more about how from Beth Harris, store manager at Walmart #1928 in Flint, and Melton Wright, co-manager at store #3726 in Grand Blanc, Michigan, a community less than 10 miles away.
How have you seen this crisis affect your store, and why was it important to your team to take action?
Beth Harris: Right from the beginning, we’ve had an increase in associates and customers who’ve needed quality water, affordable water and affordable ways to filter their water. We thought it was important for them to know they had someone they could trust to take care of their needs. Our associates are proud to be a part of the effort to help our friends and neighbors.
Your store has stepped in not only with water distribution, but also with educating people on water filters and proper use. Can you tell us more?
Beth Harris: One of the steps we took was to educate ourselves so we could spread that knowledge. Many questions were coming in, so we did do some additional training for our associates, and our pharmacy and hardware department so we could pass that along to the customers.
Melton Wright: Here in the Flint store, they’ve been training their associates to know how the water filters work, how to set them up in your homes, how to hook them up to the faucets, and so that education is being given to the customer as they come in. That’s a huge impact because up until this point, who really used water filters in that respect? What I mean is that there have always been families who bought them because they wanted them as added features in their homes, but here, it’s really a necessity. Being able to help folks in that respect is a huge step, and Walmart is a big part of that.
You’re both obviously local residents. Can you tell us how this crisis has affected you personally?
Melton Wright: I’m a Flint resident and have been for most of my life. I know the city has gone through a number of different transformations, but this one here really tops it all in the sense that it’s impacting households. People used to just walk up to their sinks and pour water out, but now you have the issue of not knowing whether it’s going to affect you unfavorably. So that impact is a personal one. The positive piece of that is that you have organizations like Walmart stepping in to help with the situation. So I feel good about that, but day in and day out, dealing with the water is definitely a big issue.