Chief Development Officer, Lutheran Service Society of Western Pa.
March 12, 2014
Last Thursday, Margaret Popko opened her front door to
receive her lunch. But it wasn’t a normal delivery, just like Margaret isn’t
a normal Meals On Wheels recipient.
Jimmy Carter was president, Laverne & Shirley was the
most watched television show and Star Wars was the nation’s biggest film when
Margaret first volunteered for the Lutheran Service Society of Western
She spent 36 years in a small church kitchen in Clairton,
about 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh. Like all of our volunteers, Margaret
wanted to lend a hand to people in the community who aren’t able to grocery
shop or cook for themselves.
A few months ago, she was no longer able to make it into
the kitchen on a regular basis. At age 95, she joined the nearly 1,000
individuals who receive a meal from us every day.
But there was a problem: our Meals On Wheels kitchen was
short on wheels.
Individual volunteers had to use their own cars to
transport food from the nearby food bank to our kitchens, and from our kitchen
to hundreds of homes throughout the region. It limited how many people like
Margaret we were able to serve.
We needed help. Se we applied for a grant through the
Walmart Foundation. A few months later, as part of Walmart’s $2 billion
commitment to end hunger in the United States, the Foundation awarded us a $65,000
grant to purchase a delivery vehicle.
We officially unveiled the new van on Thursday. Several
Walmart associates helped in the kitchen earlier that day.
The decision of who should receive the inaugural meal was
an easy one.
Store Manager Ed Protiva from the nearby Walmart greeted Margaret at her door. Our brand new van was parked on the street
“That should make things easier!” Margaret said. “It
From Clairton the van went on to deliver food for individuals
in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Mercer counties.
A single meal may not seem like much, but each and every
delivery we make is a connection, a conversation, and a helping hand that
people depend on. Walmart’s dedication to our community makes a big
difference to us, and makes it possible for use to serve more people like
Patty Davidson is the Chief Development Officer of the
Lutheran Service Society of Western Pa. To learn more about LSSWPA or to
volunteer for the Meals On Wheels program, please visit http://www.lsswpa.org/.
Willie Grant likes to get his hands dirty – and he’s grateful to say that for the past three years, he has had the opportunity to wake up every morning and do just that.
As a maintenance tech at the Homestar factory in Statesville, North Carolina, Willie holds one of the most important jobs on the plant: He fixes the machines that make it possible to produce up to 7,000 units of ready-to-assemble furniture daily.
“My role here is to see that Homestar succeeds,” Willie says. “These are good people, and I don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”
But hard economic realities often make meaningful work difficult to come by. Willie knows from personal experience how hard it can be to lose a job with no warning. In 2008, he faced a series of layoffs because companies were shutting down their factories in the U.S. and sending the work overseas. As a family man with strong sense of responsibility to his wife and four children, he felt helpless to care for the people he loves the most.
When Willie began looking for work again, he had already lost trust in the companies offering him work – he even rejected a job offer with a factory that ended up shutting its doors to American workers only six months later.
“When you’ve been knocked down like I have, it’s really hard to build that trust in a company,” Willie said, “but I’m not a failure, I’m a provider.”
Finally in 2013, Willie’s brother told him about Homestar, a new company committed to hiring American workers and promoting employees from within. After going in for an interview, he recognized something special – and thanks to the commitment Walmart has made to source an additional $250 billion in U.S. products from suppliers like Homestar, Willie and his coworkers can again do the most important work in their lives: provide for their families. Now, they have something to work for again – something to be proud of.
“Every day is not peaches and cream, but we know we have something to fight for,” Willie said. “Walmart coming together with Homestar, it’s a great feeling … It gives us that feeling that we have security now. It gives us that drive to come to work every day and do what we do, and do it the best. Just the thought of knowing that the product we make, here in America, is on the shelves at Walmart – it’s an amazing feeling.”
Dying twice: It happens when a person takes his final breath, and later, the last time his name is spoken.
It’s a philosophy that illustrates the importance of not just going through the motions of commemorating our fallen soldiers, but instead taking time to truly honor and remember them.
It is for this reason that Wreaths Across America, an organization that works to honor those who served and teach future generations about their sacrifices, encourages every volunteer who places a wreath on a veteran’s grave to say that veteran’s name aloud and take a moment to thank them for their service to our country.
As part of this effort on December 17, more than 800,000 volunteers helped with the transportation and placing of wreaths on veterans’ graves nationwide. Walmart has contributed for many years, and this year donated the services of 16 tractor-trailers and associate truck drivers to transport more than 80,000 wreaths across the country to national cemeteries. The company also provided $150,000 to help purchase 40,000 wreaths for placement at national cemeteries and memorial sites across the U.S., including Arlington National Cemetery.
Supporting Wreaths Across America is just one way we’re working to honor veterans and military families. Watch as our drivers explain why they’re proud to help carry out this tradition.
ICYMI: It’s two weeks into 2017, and we’re back from the holidays with these highlights: honoring a great teacher in North Carolina, hosting Clemson’s cool trophy at two stores in South Carolina, and opening even more Academies in five communities across the country.
Michael Bonner is a second-grade teacher at South Greenville Elementary, which is located in a neighborhood with a high poverty rate in Greenville, North Carolina. Despite these circumstances, Mr. Bonner has found a voice to inspire his students through unique and fun lesson plans and activities. He’s truly making a difference in his community, so we were excited to donate $25,000 to his school on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Keep up the awesome work, Mr. Bonner!
Clemson Tigers fans in South Carolina have until 7 p.m. tonight to get a close-up look at the shiny new College Football National Championship trophy, which has been on display at Walmart Supercenters in Central and Easley this week before it goes to live forever at the Clemson University campus. Craftsmen at the Polich Tallix fine art foundry in Rock Tavern, New York, spent three months shaping the trophy out of 24-karat gold.
If you’ve been putting off your 2017 resolution to finally start being healthy, this Saturday, Jan. 14, might be the perfect time to kick off change with Walmart Wellness Day – the country’s largest single-day health fair. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time, visit one of more than 5,200 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations to receive free glucose, blood pressure and vision screenings – and for the first time, body fat and body mass index testing. Product samples and health insurance information will also be available to help you get going in the right direction.
For the fourth year, the American Small Business Championship is back. This annual competition celebrates small business owners and entrepreneurs from across the nation. The winners (two small businesses per state) will receive $1,000 Sam’s Club gift cards and an all-expense paid trip to train and network at an event in Dallas. Sam’s Club serves more than 600,000 small business owners each week, so their sponsorship of this program is one way they help support those members. If you are a small business owner or know someone, you can sign up here!
Setting our associates up for success is a huge priority. In 2016, we opened 40 Walmart Academies, dedicated locations where hourly supervisors and department managers can receive hands-on training that combines both the classroom and the sales floor. This week, we kicked off the new year with five additional locations: Coventry, Rhode Island; Hatfield, Pennsylvania; Florence, South Carolina; Plover, Wisconsin; and Shawnee, Kansas. By the end of 2017, we’ll have 200 total locations and will have trained more than 200,000 associates.
History is clear about that. In the mid-19th century, most people in the U.S. were shopping at small markets. They would tell the manager what they wanted, and then wait for the item to be retrieved from the back or from the supplier. After that came the urban department store, supermarkets, then strip malls and discount stores.
Today, the pace of change is rapid. Ten years ago most customers were reading about the original iPhone, and wondering whether it would be useful. Now they expect to order something on their mobiles, have it delivered or pick it up in store – often on the same day, in a few hours, or even in a few minutes.
It’s up to retailers to adapt to these changes – and in some areas even lead the way – or they’ll fall behind and disappear.
Here’s what customers can expect their shopping experiences to be like 10 years from now:
1.Customer empowerment and even greater influence Customer satisfaction has always been the number one goal for retailers, and in the future, customers will be more empowered than ever to drive the change they want, as they get more control over their shopping experience.
Technology – the internet, mobile and analytics – is being used to do anything and everything a customer doesn’t want to. Customers want to explore. But they need to have easy access to items they choose to use all the time. The historic trade-off between price and service has been altered by technology and customers expect to save time and enjoy the experience while saving money. They’ll fulfill their everyday needs – items like laundry detergent, paper, light bulbs, grocery staples and shampoo – in the easiest way possible through a combination of stores, e-commerce, pick-up, delivery and supported by artificial intelligence. Customer desires – think emerging fashion, fresh produce, and items they’ve never seen before – will still be fun to explore in stores as well as with technology (think virtual reality).
Retailers that provide a truly unique, enjoyable experience and prepare their associates to provide excellent service will have the advantage. At Walmart we already see the value customers place on personalization and convenience, through our success with grocery pick-up and delivery in several markets around the world.
With the growth of the internet of things, customers will enjoy an increasingly connected or “smart” shopping experience through a network of connections linking the physical and digital worlds into an ecosystem of devices, including vehicles, stores and software. The internet of things, drones, delivery robots, 3D-printing and self-driving cars will allow retailers to further automate and optimize supply chains too. Both sides of the equation – demand and supply – will change dramatically.
In addition, customers will continue to demand transparency around pricing and the supply chain. They’ll have less time to research the products they buy – but they’ll care even more about how they are sourced. They’ll choose to shop with retailers who provide that transparency so they can feel good about the items they purchase. This will require retailers to work with manufacturers to source items responsibly and sustainably. Retailers who do this and share the information will further earn customers’ trust.
2.I’ve seen what you have and I want it, too Customers all over the world now know, and can see, what people in other countries have, and they want access to it all. And they want it now. Chinese customers want access to Louis Vuitton bags from France and milk from Australia. Not long ago on a visit to Nigeria and Ghana, I asked one of our local store managers what his one wish would be. His answer: “I want you to put a Walmart Supercenter like the ones you have in the US right here and let me run it. My customers and my family have seen what you have and we want it, too. We want those items at those prices.”
As Tom Friedman taught us, the world got flat and now it’s moving fast. The world needs inclusive growth provided in a sustainable manner. People are demanding it.
3.Shared value With all these changes, retailers will only survive if their business creates shared value that benefits shareholders and society. Social and environmental sustainability will be engineered into our systems, and that will strengthen the communities in which we operate, which will in turn appeal to customers. These changes, however, will require new levels of cooperation and collaboration between retailers and NGOs, governments and educational institutions. Basically, we’ll design retail and other businesses so that all stakeholders (as many as possible) benefit: customers, associates/employees, shareholders, the communities we serve and those in the supply chain.
At Walmart, we’ve already found that investments in training, education and wages for our associates have resulted in higher customer satisfaction. Our customers want our associates to have a great life and they want to see that reflected in their attitudes and the service they provide.
When it comes to environmental sustainability, retailers and policy-makers face new challenges with the increase in packaging waste and emissions that comes with the growth of e-commerce. Shipping packages one at a time is not only wasteful and environmentally unsustainable, it isn’t cost-effective. The demand for convenience will force retailers to come up with new ways to ship items – in batches vs. one at a time – that are better for business and the environment.
While all these changes pose big challenges for retailers, they also represent unprecedented opportunities to innovate on behalf of customers and create new job opportunities for retail associates. I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in retail, to be at the forefront of change and part of an industry that has the potential to provide a better life for millions around the world.
This piece draws on a new report, Shaping the Future of Retail for Consumer Industries, which can be read here.