Global Impact

Feeding the front lines

Some sweet (and savory) gestures to show front-line workers they’re on our minds.

By Tom Wall

Walgreens team members thankful for free lunch

Sometimes a small gesture can make a big impact.

In Romania, March was a scary time, as it was for the rest of the world. COVID-19 cases were on the rise throughout Europe, and many front-line workers at Alliance Healthcare Romania were feeling nervous. But they also knew that people in their country were depending on them to receive their critical medications.

“Many in the field were concerned, from the drivers to the distribution center workers,” says Valentin Ene, executive director of Alliance Healthcare Romania. “Those of us at the corporate office wanted to do something sweet to put a smile on their face.”

This something sweet came in the form of chocolate-covered orange slices. The treats were delivered to distribution centers and handed out to the workers, providing a bright spot for many during an otherwise dark time.

Nona Pipiriga, a worker at the Alliance Healthcare warehouse in Timisoara, Romania, receives her gift.
Nona Pipiriga, a worker at the Alliance Healthcare warehouse in Timisoara, Romania, receives her gift.


“Romanians, we love our sweets,” says Ene. “So, it was a small gesture, but hopefully it made their days just a little bit better.”

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

In the U.S., some team members at the Walgreens corporate office had an idea along the same lines – but it was less sweet and more … savory.

“We thought there had to be something we could do, as a token of appreciation for our colleagues in our stores who continue to go to work each day,” says Jeffrey Johnson, manager of concepts and design development for Walgreens.

Johnson and his colleagues quickly mobilized and put together an internal fundraising effort, collecting money to buy lunches for store team members in two of the hardest-hit areas in the country: New York and New Orleans.

Within three weeks, the team had raised close to $4,500 in donations from colleagues, all going toward the food purchase. Then, they had to decide what to order. As anyone knows who has had to order takeout for their family, the work was just beginning.

“It would have been easy to just pick up the phone and call one of the many chain restaurants that we knew would serve each market,” says Steve Lamontagne, vice president of physical design and formats for WBA. “But my team saw this as not just a way to support our front-line workers, but also support small businesses in these local economies.”

Johnson and his Walgreens colleagues Amanda Bierle, team leader of non-merchandise supply chain; and Samantha Cipolla, senior analyst, macro space; researching local restaurants that might particularly benefit from receiving a large food order at a time when business was getting harder than ever to come by. One they discovered was Morton Williams, a New-York-area grocery store that relied heavily on catering office events and meetings.

“(Event catering) is one part of the business that has really fallen off quite a bit since the start of the pandemic,” says Ralph Pepe, regional director of prepared food and catering for Morton Williams. “So it was definitely exciting to get a call with such a large order, and it was an honor to be able to serve other local front-line workers.”

Team members in New York City were grateful to receive their catered lunches.
Walgreens team members in New York City were grateful to receive their catered lunches.

 

In New Orleans, Matty Ghabrial, general manager of the restaurant Cochon, felt equally happy when the Walgreens team reached out to his restaurant to place an order, and he quickly filled it by engaging his company’s sister restaurant, Cochon Butcher and their specialty sandwich, The Gambino.

“We really appreciated that Walgreens wanted to support local businesses in this way,” says Ghabrial. “New Orleans has always been really great about taking care of its community, especially among the restaurant business. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a strange time, but we’re hanging in there. We’ve always received so much support from local businesses and our community, so it really felt good to do this for our local Walgreens.”

Boxed lunches await hungry Walgreens team members that contained "The Gambino," the specialty sandwich of Cochon Butcher in New Orleans.
Boxed lunches await hungry Walgreens team members that contained "The Gambino," the specialty sandwich of Cochon Butcher in New Orleans.

 

Thanks to the team’s efforts, more than 300 lunches were delivered to stores in both New York and New Orleans last month, and photos of store team members enjoying their lunches began flooding into the team’s inboxes.

“A bunch of the stores reached out, both personally and through their managers, to tell us how appreciative they were,” says Cipolla. “But what was surprising was that they were also thanking us for the work we were doing at the corporate office. It just shows how much everyone is thinking about each other right now, and really reminded me that we’re all in this together.”