For Walmart co-manager Ben Allen, working for the Monroe Walmart has given him far more than just a-ápaycheck. It's given him the opportunity to become-áentrenched in the Monroe community through-ávolunteerism and giving back.
Through its Volunteerism Always Pays (VAP) program,-áWalmart encourages its employees to engage in-ácommunity service, for which the organization commits to making a charitable contribution to the-áemployees' nonprofit of choice. The two different forms of VAP include individual VAPs and event VAPs,-áboth of which facilitate community support based on-ávolunteerism, but in slightly different ways.
"We encourage our associates to volunteer,GÇ¥ Allen said. "And Walmart pays their volunteer hours."
Individual VAPs can be applied for by any Walmart employee who wishes to transform their volunteer-áhours into a monetary donation to their organization of choice.
For example, a Walmart associate might spend four hours every Sunday volunteering at the Monroe-áBoys & Girls Club. If that associate were to achieve at least 25 hours of uncompensated volunteer-áservice at the Monroe Boys & Girls Club within a three-month quarter, that associate could submit those-áhours to Walmart, who would in turn make an equivalent donation to the Monroe Boys & Girls Club.-áRoughly translated, the donated amount equates to about $10 per hour.
Event VAPs are accomplished when a group of at least five associates participates in a collective-ávolunteer effort, with donation amounts climbing incrementally based on the number of participating-áassociates and the number of hours they accomplish.-áAgain broken down into a quarterly time-frame, the-áminimum grant amount of $500 can be achieved-áany time a minimum of five associates accomplish at-áleast 25 hours of volunteer work within a three-month quarter. The maximum grant amount of $5,000 can be achieved any time a minimum of 50-áassociates volunteer for a minimum of 250 hours in-áa quarter.
During Walmart's grand opening ceremony in December, donation monies were gifted to several local-ánonprofit agencies, including $1,000 to the Monroe-áPublic Schools Foundation, $2,000 to the Maltby-áFood Bank, $300 to the American Cancer Society, $1,000 to the Monroe YMCA, $2,000 to the Sky Valley-áFood Bank, $500 to the Skykomish School District and $6,000 to the Monroe Arts Council.
The $6,000 donation to the Monroe Arts Council was-áthe result of a $1,000 store grant in addition to an-áevent VAP, during which 50 Walmart associates performed over 250 hours of volunteer labor at the-áWagner Auditorium. The volunteer hours took place last fall, prior to the store being open. Fifty-áemployees helped prepare the historic venue for upcoming-áHello, Dolly-áperformances by scrubbing-áfloors, wiping down walls, freshening paint and much more.
"We did anything that they said,GÇ¥ Allen said. "Anyone can write a check and say, "Here you go,' but our-áVAP program is about the associates giving their time, which is more precious than a dollar amount.GÇ¥
The Monroe Walmart is helping the Monroe Arts Council apply for a Walmart Foundation Grant, a-ánational grant opportunity that can provide funds on a larger scale. The arts council is hoping to win-áa-ágrant large enough to complete new restroom facilities in the Wagner Auditorium.
"This renovation will increase their ability to have great, quality performances. The plus side is we-áhave-áassociates that actually perform through Wagner Performing Arts in our store, so we can use those-átestimonials,GÇ¥ Allen said. "This is an important part of our community.GÇ¥
Walmart is currently engaged in another event VAP for Take the Next Step (TTNS), a local nonprofit that-ásupports homeless and low income individuals. Depending on how many hours the Walmart associates-áachieve during the quarter, the company will translate those hours into a matching financial-ácontribution to TTNS. To fulfill the volunteer hours, Walmart employees have served meals at the-áGrowing Together dinners, which are monthly dinner-ámeetings meant to support young moms.
They also provided all the food and refreshments at-áa TTNS community barbecue held on Tuesday, July-á21, and will be facilitating another community barbecue at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 20. They will be-áholding a root-beer float fundraiser during the Monroe Summer Concert series at Lake Tye on Thursday,-áAug. 6, to raise additional funds for TTNS.
Others areas of involvement have included Monroe's-áMiracle League, the Monroe YMCA, the Monroe-áPublic Schools Foundation and Sky Valley Relay for-áLife, which received a $5,000 donation as a result-áof-áan event VAP. Fifty Walmart associates participated-áin the VAP by walking the track at Monroe High-áSchool for over 250 hours.
They will have a significant presence at Monroe's National Night Out event, which will take place on-áTuesday, Aug. 4.
Coming into a new community can be challenging, acknowledged Allen. Often times, a new Walmart-ástore is greeted angrily by residents who are adamantly opposed to its existence. In Monroe, a robust-áFacebook group called "No Walmart in MonroeGÇ¥ sprang-áto life, as residents fought to keep the store out.
An opposing page called "Friends for Walmart, MonroeGÇ¥ was created as well, but it had significantly fewer members.
Allen is hopeful that after being able to witness Walmart's level of community involvement, residents-ámight have a slightly different viewpoint.
"We stepped in and the support from the community has been phenomenal,GÇ¥ Allen said.
Walmart is hiring, said Allen. They are currently offering full-time and part-time positions including-ápositions with opportunities for growth.
"We take care of this community GÇô this is our family,GÇ¥ Allen said. "We are looking for more family-ámembers to join our store.GÇ¥