Community

In the Aftermath of a Disaster, Food Banks Help Communities Heal

It’s hard to prepare yourself to visit a community that’s been affected by disaster.

The week after Hurricane Harvey hit, I visited the Houston area to help Feeding America member organization, Houston Food Bank, with relief efforts. Despite learning as much as possible about the hurricane’s impact before I left, I was still shocked by what I saw – the good and bad alike.

Driving around the neighborhoods, I saw entire contents of people’s homes piled curbside. It had all been ruined in the flooding and needed to be discarded. I met several people who told me through tears that they’d lost everything – including Rosalba, a mother who, along with her five children, rode out the storm in a pickup truck, praying for safety as the water rose. The house she had been renting was no longer livable. With nowhere to go, Rosalba and her family had been sleeping in that same truck, parked on the front lawn of what remains of their home. Her landlord said the home would take six to nine months to renovate, so Rosalba was desperately trying to find a place for her family to live in the meantime.

I met Rosalba at a local food pantry that was distributing supplies and food to hundreds of people impacted by Harvey. She and her daughter were there to pick up ready-to-eat meals and toiletries to help them get by. They were extremely grateful for the support in this unexpected time of need.

When I visited The Houston Food Bank, it was overflowing with donations and volunteers. There were boxes upon boxes of donated supplies waiting to be delivered. I was there only five days after the food bank re-opened, and already, more than 5,000 people had been through its doors to volunteer. The community – and country – is truly banding together to help people rebuild.

Feeding America’s network of food banks reaches every county in every corner of our nation—making us uniquely prepared to respond in the event of a disaster. Within hours we are able to quickly deploy trucks and other solutions to help in communities where we already operate. From preparing for disasters before they hit, to responding during the disaster, to supporting families and communities through recovery, we offer food and hope for families as they seek to return to normalcy.

Food banks in Texas have provided essential supplies to people in need, including water, boxes of food and personal hygiene and cleaning items. They’ve also provided support to transitional shelters. Food banks farther away have helped, too, by pitching in to offer product, vehicles and other assistance as needed.

For me, it was humbling to be in Houston – meeting storm survivors and volunteers and seeing firsthand how much of a difference the Feeding America network was really making in people’s lives. It reminded me why I am passionate about the work that we do.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have been instrumental in relief efforts. Their commitment of over $37 million for hurricane response over the past few months includes specific contributions to Feeding America and its member food banks to help those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. With this support, we’ll be able to help even more food and supplies get to communities in need.

Even with this outpouring of support, there’s still so much more to be done. For thousands of families like Rosalba’s, it will take time to recover. But I’m hopeful that with continued support, everyone who has been impacted will be able to get back on their feet a little sooner.

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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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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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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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Life

In Case You Missed It: Our Favorite Stories from 2017

Last year, our news feeds were full of big moments.

In case you missed some of Walmart’s major events, we rounded up our Top 10 favorite stories of 2017 – from the impressive, to the heartbreaking, to the downright adorable.

Our Family Got Bigger and Better
It’s always a happy moment when a family grows. This year, we added exciting companies to our team like ModCloth, Bonobos, Shoes.com and Parcel. We also partnered with tech innovators like August Home, Google, Uber and Lord & Taylor, proving that when we strengthen our business in the right places, our customers win.

A Podcast About Retail (And All Things Related)
These days, you can find a podcast for just about anything. From whales to Wales, from weather patterns to whether the latest movie is any good, you can probably find it all in your favorite podcast app. In May, we launched a podcast of our own called Outside the Box where we brought together thought leaders and innovators of all backgrounds to talk about the ways they’re transforming technology, shopping and everything in between.

Virtual Reality – and a Few Cues From Football – Helped Train Our People
Inspiration can come from surprising places. With the same technology used by some major football teams, we started incorporating virtual reality training into our Academy programs across the country. It’s just one of the many ways Walmart Academies use tech to set up associates for success.

This 5-Year-Old Associate Stole Our Hearts
What do you call a preschooler who does an art project on working at Walmart? Our newest associate! Well, at least for a day. When 5-year-old Will Coffman’s dad shared an adorable picture on Twitter, a local store manager invited him in to help out (and try out the job).

We Made Great Value… an Even Better Value
Premium Ice cream, sustainable coffee and salon-quality hairspray all at everyday low prices? We made it happen. In 2017, we highlighted some private label products that go above and beyond in providing our customers an amazing value. Be sure to check them out, you may be surprised!

This Short Story Revealed a Much Bigger Impact
A lot goes on behind the scenes in this big retail business. Aside from bringing customers their favorite products at a great value, we work to make a difference year-round for people, communities and the environment. This year we had Walmart home office associate Kyle Jones break down the lengthy report for us. He did such a great job we wondered why we never thought of it before!

#MadeInUSA Helped Create Jobs Across the Country
In 2013, we announced a commitment to source an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled or grown in the U.S. From an eyeglass factory in Brooklyn to an inventor’s home factory in Opdyke, Illinois, we took 2017 to highlight suppliers that are creating change for American workers.

Shopping Got a Major Tech Upgrade
The world is navigating a cultural revolution into the digital age, and last year was a big year for tech in retail. Last year, our Online Grocery Pickup continued to grow as a customer favorite, and we opened new stores with some pretty exciting features. What’s more, our incubation arm Store No 8 moved like a startup to test better ways to shop.

Associates Came Together to Help Those in Need
After natural disasters destroyed homes across the U.S., we witnessed communities and associates come together in times of need. From Hurricane Harvey to Hurricane Maria, from earthquakes in Mexico to wildfires in California, we were proud to see Walmart associates use their unique skill sets to help those affected get back on their feet.

We Started With #HelloMyNameIs
Every year, our Shareholders meeting brings together exceptional associates from around the world. It’s always inspiring to see what our international co-workers are up to, but last June we heard a powerful story from an Asda associate who’s carrying on his late wife’s legacy, and we just had to share it.

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