Excellence in Community Service: The Retail Industry and Everyday Retail Heroes

Walmart employee volunteer at drive-up testing site
Walmart employee volunteer at drive-up testing site. Photo courtesy of Walmart corporate

In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this is truly a time to come together and show the character of the human spirit. Community service is such an integral part of society, bringing people together for a common cause while underscoring the importance of compassion and understanding. This type of commitment does more than solve problems and fill needs; it offers hope and strengthens our society as a whole.

Despite the hardships encountered by retail, we are overwhelmed by the spirit and generosity of the retail community. Here is a summary of the many ways that these contributions are being made, followed by a list by company of the many ways retailers served their communities.

Everyday Retail Heroes

Our deepest gratitude must first go out to the everyday retail heroes—those essential employees who have served on the front lines during unchartered circumstances. They’ve been tasked with keeping stores stocked and clean and customers safe, all while managing through their own challenges and personal risks during these uncertain times.

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Health-care workers, first responders, and our everyday retail heroes deserve our sincere appreciation for all that they have done to help keep all of us safe and functioning during this time of need. Yet there’s still something more that each of us can do.

Right now, for all of us, every day presents certain risks as a result of the current health threat. But it’s just as true that our personal risk can be reduced—or compounded—by the decisions of others around us. Despite our restlessness, anxiety, and frustration over the guidelines and mandates that have resulted from the ongoing pandemic, it’s still vitally important that each of us do our part and practice safe and responsible social conduct. If you truly want to show your respect and gratitude to the everyday retail heroes, do your part and act responsibly.

The Retail Community

Here are some of the ways that companies are addressing and supporting us during the COVID-19 crisis:

Repurposing company facilities. To mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, some retailers have rushed to repurpose company facilities to produce items like face masks and hand sanitizer to support health-care workers, first responders, and the community as a whole.

Exclusive hours for at-risk groups. Social distancing is especially important for people at higher risk, including seniors and those with underlying health concerns. Many retailers have taken steps to reserve exclusive shopping hours for at-risk groups, alleviating stress for these customers and their loved ones.

Safe shopping. Retailers have taken additional steps to provide customers with a safe and clean environment. Stores have limited store traffic, installed sneeze guards at registers, developed plans to encourage social distancing, and created additional procedures for hygiene, handwashing, sanitation, food handling, and cleaning high-touch surfaces.

Delivery. To maintain operations and normalcy for customers who still need food, prescriptions, and other essentials, many retailers and restaurants have adapted their pick-up and delivery options, offering contactless delivery, curbside pickup, and/or waiving delivery fees.

Donations. As the crisis escalated, retailers moved quickly to donate money, food, and other resources to hospitals, organizations working to prevent the spread of the virus, and those impacted by the pandemic.

Education. With the education system turned upside down, some companies are also supporting students through meal programs, as well as parents, teachers, and schools during the shift to digital learning.

Employee assistance. Many retailers have provided pay and benefits to employees during the crisis, and some have gone the extra mile to ensure workers have additional resources necessary to support themselves and their families during store closures. Some that have remained open have offered cash bonuses and hired additional workers to manage demand during the crisis.

Contributions by Multiple Companies

While lives can never be measured in terms of dollars, the generosity of the retail industry in the face of this devastating crisis exemplifies the spirit of community and the importance of giving back. Following is a list of companies who have made significant contributions. While we have made every effort to include everyone, we know we likely have missed some. Please forward information about community service efforts not included here to excellence (at) LPportal (dot) com.

7-Eleven has donated 1 million masks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to aid the medical community who are tirelessly battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Albertsons announced a $50 million commitment to hunger relief through its Nourishing Neighbors Community Relief campaign. This is in addition to the $3 million commitment the company already pledged to those affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Amazon donated more than 250,000 critical items to patients in quarantine or recovering from COVID-19 across the Seattle area. They also contributed $20 million to the AWS Diagnostic Initiative, in order to accelerate diagnostic research, innovation, and development to speed our collective understanding and detection of COVID-19. Further, Amazon announced the hiring of 100,000 more employees across the United States and raise pay for all fulfillment centers, transportation, stores and delivery employees across the United States and Canada due to millions of consumers shifting their purchases online.

Apple recently announced it is designing and producing face shields to protect health care workers across the United States. The company is also donating 20 million masks. This is in addition to the $15 million that the company previously donated.

Burger King offered two free kid’s meals for every adult meal ordered in an effort to help families during the COVID-19 pandemic when purchased online or through the Burger King app. This offer can be used once a day.

Carhartt is supplying personal protective equipment to include gowns and masks to first-line responders during the COVID-19 crisis.

Crocs is donating 10,000 pairs of shoes each day to healthcare workers.

CVS Health has joined forces with state governments in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Rhode Island to help increase access to rapid COVID-19 testing. The drugstore announced that it will help facilitate COVID-19 testing in secure areas of parking lots at select stores—not inside. Individuals tested will not have to leave their cars. Additionally, CVS will provide bonuses to employees ranging from $150 to $500, add benefits, and hire 50,000 new employees in response to the pandemic.

Dollar General is providing all medical personnel, first responders, and activated National Guardsmen with a 10 percent discount on qualifying purchases.

eBay launched an accelerator program designed to help retailers and brands without an e-commerce presence transition to selling online. Through this program, eBay pledged up to $100 million in support for small businesses across North America and waived selling fees.

Eddie Bauer shifted merchandise production to make N95 masks and surgical masks for health care workers.

Gap is sourcing masks, gowns, and scrubs from its factory partners for California hospitals. The Gap Foundation has also made a $1 million donation.

Harbor Freight Tools donated its entire supply of protective equipment to hospitals with 24-hour emergency rooms in communities where their stores are located.

H-E-B launched a program to help restaurants throughout Texas during the coronavirus crisis. Through the program, select stores will sell ready-made meals from restaurant partners with all proceeds from the sale of these chef-prepared meals going directly to support the restaurants.

H&M is using its global supply chain to produce and distribute protective clothing for hospital and health care workers and has also donated $500,000 to a COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Hanes Brands is retrofitting some of their facilities to produce medical masks, with plans produce 1.5 million masks weekly.

Home Depot has stopped selling N95 masks entirely and donated them to hospitals, first responders, and other healthcare providers around the country. The company has also been organizing the resources of merchandising and supply chain teams to globally source essential products and expedite the availability of needed items.

Honeywell is donating equipment to schools and medical facilities, increasing production of facemasks, and directing these resources to the most affected areas.

JOANN locations created mask kits for adults and youth, and customers are encouraged to bring their completed masks back for donation to hospitals and healthcare facilities in need. JOANN is also working with larger hospitals and medical facilities to secure materials such as fabric, elastic and clear vinyl —all which are in short supply at many facilities.

Kenneth Cole is donating 20 percent of net sales from its website to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of those severely affected by the coronavirus. The fund was launched by the World Health Organization, and donations will be used to ensure patients can access the healthcare they need and that front-line workers can get supplies, as well as support efforts in tracking and understanding the spread of COVID-19 and accelerating the development of vaccines, tests and treatments.

Kentucky Fried Chicken donated $400,000 to help prevent child hunger during school closures due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Kroger set up a $10 million relief fund designed to boost pandemic response efforts throughout the country. The money will come from The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger/Zero Waste Foundation to help support local, state and national grant programs for pandemic response efforts. The foundation previously donated $6 million to nonprofits helping people make it through the pandemic, including making more free food available and working to check on isolated senior citizens.

Lowe’s is helping community members hit hardest by COVID-19 through a $25 million philanthropic investment of product, funds, and collaboration to meet the needs of associates and customers as the pandemic continues. This includes $10 million in product to medical professionals on the frontlines and delivering essential items like respirators and protective gear to hospitals nationwide. The company is also giving $1.5 million to support the COVID-19 Response Fund and $500,000 to the American Red Cross.

LVMH will use its perfume production lines to start making hand sanitizer to protect people against the coronavirus outbreak.

McDonalds offered healthcare workers and first responders a free breakfast, lunch, or dinner “Thank You Meal” by showing their badge. Select locations also offered free meals to kids.

Michaels donated $1 million worth of fabric for masks to more than 70 organizations on the front lines. The donation is enough to make nearly 750,000 masks.

New Balance is turning over production in its Lawrence, Mass. manufacturing facility for the production of face masks. The company said it hopes to scale production using its other New England factories soon.

Nike innovation, manufacturing, and product teams came together with health professionals at Oregon Health & Science University to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of full-face shields and powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR) lenses to protect against COVID-19.

Neiman Marcus Group teamed with Joann Store to make free masks, gowns, and scrubs for medical personnel, with the crafts retailer sending material to the luxury department store operator’s alterations facilities for production.

Nordstrom has teamed with one of their partners, Kaas Tailored, to have members of their alterations teams in Washington, Oregon, Texas, and California sew more than 100,000 masks, which will be returned to Kaas for sanitization, and then distributed to Providence Health & Services.

Publix purchased produce and dairy directly from farmers and donated the products to Feeding America member food banks. More than 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk were donated during the first week alone. Publix Super Markets Charities has also donated $2 million to Feeding America member food banks to date.

Qurate Retail Group committed $29 million to global COVID-19 relief efforts through $10 million for urgent needs in its communities worldwide and $19 million in emergency pay/benefits for its team.

Starbucks donated $500,000 to support front-line responders, with equal donations to Direct Relief to support the delivery of personal protective equipment and essential medical items and to Operation Gratitude to deliver 50,000 care packages to first responders and health care workers. The Starbucks Foundation has donated more than $5.5 million to support global COVID-19 response efforts. They are also offering free coffee to front line responders.

Target and the Target Foundation gave $10 million to expand relief and assistance to team members, as well as local, national and global organizations responding to the pandemic. This includes $3 million that will support national nonprofits such as Feeding America and others, assisting with response and recovery for affected communities, as well as $1 million to support organizations such as UNICEF and others, helping provide critical medical equipment and supplies to regions around the world.

Tractor Supply announced a commitment of $2 million dollars including a donation of $500,000 to the existing Tractor Supply Employee Assistance Fund to assist team members impacted by COVID-19 and $1.5 million dollars for the establishment of the Tractor Supply Company Foundation, committed to the growth and development of rural areas with an initial focus on COVID-19 recovery efforts.

Walgreens is providing COVID-19 testing, along with other resources, to communities during the coronavirus outbreak. Walgreens is dedicating temporary space, such as store parking lots, at select locations where non-Walgreens health personnel will administer COVID-19 testing.

Walmart, in partnership with the federal government, is offering drive-thru coronavirus testing sites in parking lots of stores. In addition, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed $25 million to supporting organizations on the frontlines in the fight against the novel coronavirus, including $10 million directed to food banks, and school and senior meal programs. A $5 million grant will go to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, a program set up by the United Nations Foundation to support the World Health Organization (WHO) in the global effort to help countries prevent, detect and respond to the novel coronavirus. The company also pledged to hire 150,000 new workers to meet the increasing demands of customers and plans to pay a cash bonus ranging from $150–$300 to hourly workers.

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