Why Bringing Comfort to Others Brings Me Joy

By Sreekumar Gopinathan
December 18, 2015
Sreekumar Gopinathan volunteering

The most common question I get – from anyone, really – is, “How do you find the time, especially when you have a family and a career?” I tell them I don't have to “find” the time because it’s in my blood.

It all began when I was a 5-year-old boy, growing up in India. My parents told me we were going to spend the day volunteering at a shelter for abandoned children. It was eye-opening – to the point that it shaped who I’ve become.

We ended up spending countless days there as a family, helping out however we could. Often times, we rounded up as much food as we could to help stock their kitchen. Some days, we spent a portion of our time cleaning or repairing. But we always interacted with the kids. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when we did. You could tell how much it meant to them – to know someone was there for them.

That was decades ago, but those memories and experiences remain fresh on my mind. And that’s where the question “How do you find the time?” comes in. Volunteering has always been a part of my life – from the beginning – and I’ve really never stopped. I continued to volunteer wherever and whenever I saw a need in India and, when my career took me to the United States, I brought that passion with me.

I never set out to log a certain number of volunteer hours, but I know I was involved in more than 545 volunteer projects with various organizations during my time living on the East Coast. I’m the guy who’s always rounding up the manpower and support at work and in my community to ensure an even greater impact than I could deliver on my own. The way I see it, everyone needs to support everyone in this world.

I knew that wasn’t going to change when I accepted a job in strategic services with Walmart’s Information Systems Division in Northwest Arkansas in 2013. But what I didn't expect was to find a level of support for this kind of volunteerism beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. At Walmart, finding ways to get deeper into a community and make meaningful connections – that’s part of the culture.

So, when I decided to hop in my car and drive to Moore, Okla., to help residents begin to rebuild from a devastating tornado in May 2013, Walmart was behind me. The company was there again when I needed a truck, supplies and other associates to help respond to a tornado in nearby Vilonia and Mayflower, Ark., the following year.

Whether I’m helping a local organization deliver snack packs to students in need at local elementary schools, mowing the yards of the elderly in the area, or raising money to fight metastatic breast cancer – this is what brings me joy and happiness. So far, I’ve been involved in more than 115 events in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Walmart has made it clear that it supports me, through coordinating all these events, the donation of product, manpower and more. Oftentimes, the company’s Volunteerism Always Pays program even matches my contribution of time with charitable contributions. Averaging 40 volunteer projects and 230 volunteer hours per year on my own since I moved to Northwest Arkansas, that adds up. I want to help make the lives of others a little easier, and I want to inspire those around me to do the same. Having consistent support from my management, the Walmart Foundation and my greater Walmart family makes that a whole lot easier.

Editor’s Note: You can read more about Sreekumar in the 2015 Giving Report, which details how Walmart and the Walmart and Foundation work to serve society.