Elizabethton’s Helen Walton Award winning Walmart gives back to school in honor of Bethany Holder
Published 10:17 am Thursday, March 26, 2015
A prestigious award for volunteer work gave one city business the chance to once again give back to the community.
Earlier this month, the Elizabethton Walmart received the Helen Walton Award from the corporate office to honor the volunteer work, community service and fundraising efforts of the local store and its employees.
“They only do one a year out of 4,000 stores,” said Lisa Shell, operations assistant manager at the Elizabethton store. “It was very exciting for us.”
This is the first time the Elizabethton store has ever earned the award.
As a company, Walmart encourages its local stores and employees to give back to their community through volunteer work and community grants.
“We have $10,000 available in grant money each year,” Shell said. “It is at our discretion how to use that.”
One of the ways the store spends that money is through its VAP program, which stands for Volunteerism Always Pays. There are personal VAPs that employees earn by volunteering on their own as well as event VAPs where employees participate in fundraiser events sponsored by the store.
When an employee completes 25 hours of volunteer work, they can earn money for their cause. The employees are allowed to earn that money up to five times a year.
During 2014, 56 employees at the Elizabethton store completed personal VAPs, earning a total of $14,000 for their local charities, organizations or schools. At store-sponsored events, 50 employees of the Elizabethton Walmart completed 250 hours of volunteer work and raised $21,000.
One of the large events the store participated in was a walk-a-thon at Hunter Elementary School to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in honor of a Hunter Elementary sixth-grade student, Bethany Holder, who lost her battle with the disease in March 2014. Bethany’s mother, Patty Holder, works at the Elizabethton Walmart.
The original focus of the walk-a-thon was to earn money to make improvements to the school’s playground, but after Bethany’s death, the focus changed to raising awareness about the disease and donating the money to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Many of the store’s employees took part in the walk-a-thon and fundraising to support the cause and their co-worker.
Because of the Elizabethton Walmart’s community service, the store was nominated for the Helen Walton Award. Winning the award brought an additional grant of $10,000 for the store to distribute as they saw fit. The choice of where to spend the money was an easy one to make, Shell said.
“We were very humbled by those kids,” she said. “Those kids had already planned that fundraiser and it was supposed to be for their playground.”
“When Bethany got sick and then passed away, those kids decided to give that money for cystic fibrosis in Bethany’s honor,” Shell added. “We just wanted to be able to give that playground back to those kids.”