Community

The Latest on Hurricane Harvey Support and Response

Welcome to our live blog where we’re collecting updates from our volunteers and associates helping to address the needs of those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Stay tuned to this page and @WalmartNewsroom for the latest info.

North Texas Customers Step Up to Help Their Neighbors
Updated 4:03 p.m. CDT – Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017

We’re seeing a tremendous display of working better together across north Texas. A number of individuals and businesses have stepped forward to make cash donations and buy tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise that’s now bound for Houston.

During the past several days, three Dallas-area businesses have purchased more than $26,000 worth of needed staples for those evacuees left with almost nothing. Below, everyone at our Roanoke, Texas, supercenter is working hard to load trailers and get those necessary items to their neighbors down south.


Ellen Surprises J.J. Watt with $1M Donation from Walmart
Updated 2:30 p.m. CDT – Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017

Last week, J.J. Watt, defensive end for the Houston Texans, set out to raise $200,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief, and started the fund with $100,000 of his own money. As of today, he’s collected more than $10 million. Yesterday, we were honored to work with Ellen to contribute.

When #Texas needed him, JJ Watt was there. I was honored to help make this amazing gift from Walmart possible.

Posted by Ellen DeGeneres on Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Together Through the Storm: Local Associates Care for Communities
Updated 11:40 a.m. CDT – Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Walmart associates all over the country are working around the clock to address the needs of those affected by the storm.

After learning that 150 associates in Corpus Christi, Texas, were impacted and in need of assistance, a group of associates from Store 757 in Pleasanton, Texas, rolled up their sleeves to pitch in and help. Store Manager Rosendo Medina assembled a large team of associates to gather supplies and other essentials.

While some associates prepared hot meals and care packages with basic supplies, others worked together to pack large boxes of snacks and other relief items. Rosendo and his team traveled two hours to Corpus Christi to deliver four truckloads of food and supplies to the impacted associates and their families.

Walmart Associates from Store 447 in Del Rio, Texas, prepared more than 100 care packages for families impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

“Giving back to the community is so important,” said Assistant Manager Lucy Leandro, who helped organize the effort. The care packages included towels, medications, snacks and other essentials. “We want to help those affected by the storm however we can.”

The Del Rio associates plan to distribute the care packages in Houston and other impacted areas.

‘You are Helping Each Other, Our Customers and Communities’
Updated 7:00 p.m. CDT – Aug. 30, 2017

Editor’s Note: Jacqui Canney, Walmart’s EVP of Global People, shared the following message today with associates. The below photo was taken by our Rockport, Texas, supercenter team, who donated the merchandise shown to those in need.

To all of our associates – thank you! I have never been more proud of a team than I am of you. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, you are helping each other, our customers and our communities in ways only we can. You are showing up and living our values during impossible times – and you’re making a difference.

And we are here for you. Thank you to everyone working around the clock in Bentonville and other support offices to get our associates and the stores everything they need. You are getting it done and moving fast, and you, too, are making a difference.

I’m also proud of our company and the $20 million commitment we made today to the relief efforts. Rebuilding will take time and we aren’t going anywhere. We will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you, our associates in the area, so you can keep being there for our customers, first responders and the communities we serve together. #bettertogether

If you’re an associate in need, please call (800) 236-2875. We’re here to help.

Helping the Communities Hit Hardest
Updated 5:09 p.m. CDT - Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017

Across Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana, Walmart associates are out in full force helping communities hit hardest by Harvey. As the storm moves northeast and the waters recede, residents are beginning to get out and survey the damage. At store 5612, located at 2391 S. Wayside Drive in Houston, associates are handing out water for members of the community in need.

Those in the area around store 5612 are welcome to come by and get clean, bottled drinking water, and most importantly – be safe. As of Wednesday afternoon, Walmart has shipped more than 900 truckloads of water to stores and donation sites across the impacted region.

In addition to water, Walmart has donated nearly $1 million in diapers, wipes, infant formula and baby food – as well as more than $10,000 in kayaks. We’re proud to work with organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Convoy of Hope to help those in need.


Walmart Drivers Make Their Way to Houston
Updated 3:17 p.m. CDT – Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017

Truck Driver Dennis Northam is part of a convoy that just arrived in Houston to deliver much-needed supplies for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.


Walmart Sets Up Pharmacy Inside Dallas Convention Center
Updated 12:10 p.m. CDT – Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017

Hurricane Harvey evacuees seeking shelter at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center now have pharmacy services available on-site to meet their needs.

Local Walmart stores in the Dallas area will fulfill orders placed through the convention center site. A selection of over-the-counter medications is also available at the center.

Pharmacists from other Walmart locations are coming in to support and offer prescription related counseling to customers as they pick up their prescriptions – the same service they would receive in-store.

Existing Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacy accounts are not required. For people who do not have the information needed to transfer their prescriptions, the American Red Cross has medical professionals on site to help determine their needs and help get necessary prescriptions.

The Latest on Hurricane Harvey Support and Response
Updated 4:51 p.m. CDT – Monday, Aug. 28, 2017

It is heartbreaking to see the devastation that Hurricane Harvey has brought to our neighbors in Texas. We are working hard to ensure all our associates in the affected area are safe and customers have access to the essential items needed during this difficult time.

Associates have been working closely with the Red Cross and local government officials to understand how we can best help. At this time, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed at least $1 million in support, and our local teams will continue to provide extra assistance over the coming days and weeks as we learn more about the damage and what is needed.

Many of you are asking how you can help. Click here to support those affected through a donation to the American Red Cross.

To see if your local store is open, check our frequently updated list of store closures.

Stay tuned to this page and @WalmartNewsroom as we collect updates from our volunteers and associates helping to address the needs of those in storm-distressed areas.

Cuero community standing strong.

Posted by Walmart Cuero on Monday, August 28, 2017

Special Thanks to the all Walmart associates who helped with the truckload of water donated to customers of Corpus...

Posted by Walmart Corpus Christi - Saratoga Rd on Monday, August 28, 2017

Thank you assistant manager Kaitlin for ensuring our fire department in Lake Jackson is taken care of during this hard time.

Posted by Walmart Lake Jackson on Sunday, August 27, 2017

Your Highway 14 Walmart is rolling out to deliver a donation of water, pillows and blankets to the Purple Heart Recreational Center. It's open to those needing shelter from Tropical Storm #Harvey.

Posted by Walmart Lake Charles - Gerstner Memorial Blvd on Monday, August 28, 2017

Had the chance to speak with Texas Governor Greg Abbott this morning as he works to help the people of south Texas. We'...

Posted by Doug McMillon on Sunday, August 27, 2017

Walmart has a long history of providing aid in times of disasters, helping communities prepare and recover by donating emergency supplies, such as food and water, home and personal products. Since 2005, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have donated more than $60 million in cash and in-kind donations in response to disaster events.

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Innovation

My Journey From EE to IoT at Walmart’s DFW Tech Hub

Before I joined the team here, I had no idea how innovative a 50-year-old retail company could be.

Like most people, I had interacted with Walmart as a customer in stores and online but had never really thought about the systems and technology functioning behind the scenes to make the whole thing work.

As we officially open our new Walmart Technology satellite HQ in Plano, Texas, this week, I’m reflecting on my evolving, 20-year journey in tech — from building circuit boards to developing software to, now, exploring ways to apply advances in the internet of things (IoT), machine learning, object detection and other emerging technologies in the increasingly blended world of physical-digital retail.

Here’s a great example:

It might seem like a small thing, but spills are a big deal on the sales floor. So we developed a concept to help stores quickly detect spills, building a quick alert system that linked a camera with a Raspberry Pi and sensors that sent photos and data from the sales floor to the cloud. There, we deployed learning algorithms to analyze and build models that helped identify spills.

It wasn’t perfect – but it worked! And even though we won’t bring our prototype to life in stores at scale, we’re able to learn fast and apply those learnings to other projects — like using machine learning and IoT similar to our Raspberry Pi-based sensory concept to cut energy use and cost, all while keeping the temperature comfortable for associates and customers in our stores.

I’ve only been at Walmart four months, but it’s been a blast. I’m still blown away by the many different applications of emerging technology in something as simple as a retail store. But really, retail isn’t simple. It’s complex, the scale is insane and the industry is rapidly transforming. What an awesome time and place to experiment, innovate, fail fast and learn quickly.

It makes my brain happy, and I’m glad it’s happening here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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Community

This School-Run Garden is Helping Nourish an Arizona Community

Moencopi Day School in Tuba City, Arizona, has offered a garden learning program for over 10 years. But it was just last spring that student-grown produce first appeared on this elementary school’s cafeteria lunch line—a Hopi Nation first.

That special lunch was important for Moencopi Day School. For the fifth graders who made it happen, the impact came over months of learning and preparation. Guided by Steven Lomadafkie, a science and environmental educator at the school, and two AmeriCorps service members recruited and trained by FoodCorps, an organization connecting kids to healthier foods and the natural world, the students planted and tended lettuce, gaining skills and pride in the resulting harvest.

Through washing the greens and planning a school-wide party, the students built a connection with cafeteria staff—who saw the infectious enthusiasm kids could have for a vegetable. By modeling positive eating behaviors, these fifth graders became healthy food champions, spreading the joy of good nutrition to their peers. It’s the sum of these ongoing, school-wide experiences that shapes children’s eating habits and their lifelong benefits.

A belief in hands-on learning is something that Moencopi Day School is embracing in its second year of partnership with FoodCorps and local nonprofit Moenkopi Developers Corporation. This year’s FoodCorps service member, Curt Cebula, is building on last year’s progress, expanding greenhouse lessons to all grades and increasing the frequency of taste tests. “The kids love him,” Steven says of Curt. “Sometimes he’ll get 10 hugs before a class starts.”

Curt says he sees once-reluctant students now open to trying new foods—especially when they’ve had a hand in making them. Some parents have even told Steven their kids have asked to start a garden at home.

Moencopi’s parent liaison, Trinity Honahnie, says Curt has been instrumental in engaging the community, another critical ingredient in the FoodCorps recipe. His support of a new school-wide take-home meal kit program, featuring traditional Hopi foods and recipes, has helped parents connect with what’s happening at school while reinforcing healthy habits at home. A taste test he led at a parent-teacher conference sparked a new energy.

“It was just a turnaround overnight,” Trinity says. “Curt has really brought some light to our greenhouse program.”

Principals, teachers, and parents understand that this type of positive change is important. FoodCorps strives to make its program effective, accessible and relevant to all schools. This year it introduced a new series of elementary school hands-on food lessons, each tied to national academic standards, which teachers can adapt and weave into classroom lessons. Thanks to support from funders like the Walmart Foundation, this year FoodCorps will reach 160,000 kids around the country.

At the end of the day, FoodCorps serves to make it easier for schools to do what they do best: give students the nourishment they need, in body and mind, to thrive. It’s the passion of local leaders, like Steven, that makes the impact we seek truly possible.

“This is probably the best job I’ve ever had,” he said.

Erica Curry, director of program resources and practices at FoodCorps, oversees the development of resources for FoodCorps’ service program, including a new series of nutrition education lessons that makes it easier for schools to integrate hands-on nutrition education into standard curricula. FoodCorps is proud to be supported nationally by the Walmart Foundation as together we seek to reach children with high quality, impactful nutrition education that sets kids up for healthy futures.

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Innovation

Hundreds More High-Tech Pickup Towers are Headed Your Way

You know how handy vending machines can be when you’re craving a snack or a drink. But have you ever imagined a giant vending machine that could help you get your online orders faster and save you money on shipping?

It may sound like a high-tech dream, but these machines, known as Pickup Towers, became a reality in nearly 200 of our stores over the last year. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, more than half a million orders have been retrieved through the towers since we first introduced them.

Because of this success, we’re rapidly expanding this pickup program by adding more than 500 additional Pickup Towers to stores across the country, bringing the total to more than 700 by the end of the year. With this expansion, Pickup Towers will be available to nearly 40% of the U.S. population.

Our customers have been clear: They love the Pickup Tower. But, they also told us they wanted the ability to retrieve larger items the same way. That’s why every new Pickup Tower will come with Pickup Lockers, making it just as easy to pick up that new TV as it is to pick up a new baseball glove.

But why stop there? We’ve launched all kinds of innovative services for busy families, including Online Grocery Pickup, Pickup Discount, Mobile Express Scan & Go, our growing grocery delivery service and a new partnership with Google Express. We’re even testing additional concepts, similar to the Pickup Tower, that could make picking up your online order even better in the future.

As we continue to innovate, we’ll keep listening to our associates and customers to improve the Walmart experience – and who knows? – maybe next time you’re in a Walmart store you’ll be greeted by the newest way to save time and money.

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Opportunity

How Tech Can Bridge the Employment Opportunity Gap

Having recently arrived to the U.S. from Cape Verde, Africa, Solange is eager to improve her English and pass her citizenship exam. She hopes to pursue a career in healthcare and build a brighter future for her two young girls.

Now a hotel room attendant, she has limited time to study. But through a new program available on her smartphone, she can take courses anytime, anywhere, right from the palm of her hand.

Technology is quickly changing how we live our lives, helping to make so many things easier, cheaper and faster. It’s also changing the way we work. Research suggests that innovations like artificial intelligence have the potential to significantly shift what certain types of work look like in the future.

While these changes might cause some to worry, they also provide an incredible opportunity to help us work in ways we haven’t before. Imagine being able to match your unique skillsets, strengths and personality in a way that helps you find the right job. Or learning new skills through an app or platform that performs as easily as social media does. Or technology that connects you directly to services that can help overcome specific career barriers.

Helping bring technologies like these to life is exactly what the Employment Technology Fund (ETF) has set out to do. Funded by the Walmart, Rockefeller, Joyce and W.K. Kellogg Foundations, the ETF invests in organizations and companies that have developed technology-enabled solutions that help workers overcome the barriers that often hold them back from advancing their skills, connecting to meaningful work and ultimately living up to their full potential. In doing so, the ETF strives to increase equal opportunities for millions of working adults – many of whom are women, minorities and immigrants.

ETF's latest social investments include Signal Vine, a company that uses text messaging to deliver highly personalized and interactive coaching to drive better behaviors and outcomes; SkillSmart, a skills-matching platform that increases transparency in the career development and job search process; and Nepris, a video-driven platform that provides teachers and students a way to connect with professionals around the world. These three companies exemplify a growing force of new entrepreneurs who share the belief that technology can drive social and economic progress.

With additional funding from the Walmart Foundation, ETF is working with The EdTech Center at World Education to field test the products ETF has invested in and provide the larger workforce development field with information about effective employment technology products and practices.

Currently, World Education is field testing ETF’s first two portfolio companies– Cell-Ed and Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment – both of which have national and international reach. In Boston, Seaport Hotel employees who are studying workplace English have just started extending their learning on Cell-Ed, a mobile solution offering interactive text and audio lessons over cellular, rather than internet. Adult learners, including refugees and dislocated workers, in computer and job skills programs across Minneapolis and at libraries in Providence, Rhode Island, user tested newly updated Northstar assessments before formal release last week.

When we embrace the changes technology innovation sends our way, we’re better able to harness the opportunities it provides us. ETF is proud to be working together with like-minded companies and organizations to find technology solutions that will help bring meaningful employment to all.

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