Walmart Associates Pull Together for Community in Need

Celebrating You

Walmart associates and hometown heroes pulled together for a community in need.

When heavy rains caused devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky in July 2022, more than 40 people died and many homes and cars were destroyed. Residents were without water and power for weeks. Throughout the days — and even months — following the natural disaster, Walmart Store 1247 in Hazard, Kentucky, was a hub of support for the entire community. 

Prepared for the unexpected

In the days leading up to the flooding, Walmart’s Global Emergency Management team was preparing for the possibility of disaster. Staffed by associates with experience in law enforcement, meteorology, emergency management and resilience planning, the team oversees our Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC works 24/7 to monitor and respond to natural disasters and other events.

With this foundation in place, Store Manager Jason Higgins and his associates were ready and able to focus on the tasks at hand when they woke to rising water levels. 

Showing up for each other

Jason says his management team’s first goal was to check in with every one of the store’s 330 associates to make sure they were OK and to assess who needed help. They had spotty cell phone service and internet issues, but after 48 hours they had located every associate — sometimes by driving to homes or using the help of local police.

Ultimately, Jason shares, 42 associates from Store 1247 were personally impacted by the storm: home damage, automobile loss or even total home loss. And even those associates who weren’t directly impacted lost water service for weeks.

The first support truck from Walmart arrived that very first afternoon. “It’s kind of amazing to see how fast we can move when we work together,” Jason says. 

Associates came to help from locations across the market. A team of Walmart drivers from all over the country came and made more than 56,000 meals for the community over two weeks.

Cathy Robinson, the market coordinator at the time, helped behind the scenes. She kept the store running, helped secure supplies and emergency items for the community and communicated with local governments and agencies. Melissa Daugherty, one of the store’s longest tenured management members, served as an “associate champion.” She was a point of contact for associates impacted by the flooding. Michael Pitts, manager of the store’s auto care center, was instrumental in helping track down associates the day of the flood and collecting information about the impact.

Changing needs

As the community’s needs changed over time, Walmart’s support evolved. To start, Walmart sent a tanker that hooked into the store’s plumbing system to provide fresh water. After that, items like cleaning supplies, diapers and canned food were in demand. Then, because much of the standing flood water was contaminated, anyone doing cleanup needed a tetanus shot. Jason says the store partnered with Health and Wellness to secure a donation of 2,500 tetanus shots.

With support from across the Walmart community, Store 1247 never had to close — even as some of its associates took time to tend to their homes and families. The store was one of the few places in the area that didn’t lose water or power, and became a central resource for the community.

Jason recalls that it was not unusual during those first few days to walk into the store’s restroom and find a local resident cleaning up and changing into fresh clothes they had just purchased.

The experience has made Jason even more proud to be a Walmart associate. It’s also given him a different perspective on what Walmart means to the community.

“This is my hometown as well,” says Jason. (In fact, he started his Walmart career at Store 1247 when he was in high school.) “It felt really good being from this town and being able to support the community like that. Walmart delivered. The response was overwhelming.”

A special recognition

In May 2023, Jason, AP Coach Melissa, Market Coordinator for Market 258 Cathy and Seasonal Team Lead Ginger Stacy represented the store at Associates Week, where Doug McMillon celebrated them. Thousands of the Walmart community stood to applaud them. “It was an honor to represent the store and all the associates from eastern Kentucky,” says Jason.

Whether facing the aftermath of disaster or celebrating wins, Walmart associates know how to show up for each other.