In 2002, I sat in a mud hut in the middle of a village in India with a room full of women entrepreneurs. They had no electricity, water, formal education or family support structure. But they had each other. These inspiring mothers and grandmothers pooled together their money to start businesses so they could support their families and lift up their community.
More than a decade later, when an opportunity came to lead Walmart’s community giving programs, I remembered the women I met while doing community-based development work in India. And I welcomed the chance to work with another group of people who care for each other like family and have a passion for building strong communities all over the world – all with the backing of the world’s largest retailer.
Walmart associates make a difference every day and the spirit of giving woven into the fabric of our company continues to amaze me. Much of our workforce is involved in programs that provide disaster relief, train women in agriculture and help ensure the hungry have food to eat. Associates also donate their own money to organizations like the American Cancer Society, United Way, Feeding America, American Heart Association and more through our Associate Giving Program.
In addition to the impact our associates make in their communities, I also continue to be inspired by how much Walmart employees are there for one another. When an associate is faced with an unforeseen crisis that causes financial difficulty – maybe it’s the damage of a home due to a natural disaster, a family member’s serious illness or the loss of a spouse – their Walmart family comes together to help.
When our founder Sam Walton learned of an associate who was in need, he and other associates passed a hat to collect money for that person. Passing the hat became a tradition, not just at the home office headquarters, but also in our stores – and that tradition continues to this day.
In the spirit of that tradition, we created the Associates in Critical Need Trust (ACNT) as a public non-profit organization to provide support to associates facing a crisis. To date, more than 110,000 grants have been given to associates in critical need totaling more than $100 million.
For example, this year, an associate’s house burned down and in an instant, she and her two children lost everything. Through ACNT, she was able to provide clothing, food and shelter for her family.
Another associate received help from ACNT when her husband died. Her household income had suddenly been reduced by half, and she faced the added burden of funeral expenses. Through a grant from the Trust, she was able to pay her bills and endure a difficult transition in her life.
Part-time and full-time associates are eligible to apply for a grant through ACNT if they experience an unexpected hardship that prevents them from meeting their basic needs – like food, clothing, utility bills, rent or mortgage. Anyone can donate to ACNT, including the general public, Walmart associates and Walmart retirees.
Anne Frank said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait
a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Whether with the women in
India or alongside my family at Walmart, I’m fortunate that my career continues
to provide me with opportunities to work with people who care for one another when
it matters most.