Hurricane Katrina Defining Moment In Wal-Mart Giving

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jul. 2, 2012 12:00 am  

(Photo by Stephanie Dunn)

Because Wal-Mart knows its customers, the giant corporation also had a good idea of what those customers would most need after everything they owned had been stripped away from them.

Water. Food. Medicine. Toilet tissue. Diapers. Clean underwear. Toothbrushes.

Because Wal-Mart is a master of logistics it got those items and more to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit this country. And Wal-Mart got those goods to the people of the devastated Gulf Coast faster than did the government of the United States.

As the Washington Post noted in a Sept. 6, 2005, article:

“During a tearful interview on ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday, Aaron F. Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish in the New Orleans suburbs, told host Tim Russert that if ‘the American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn’t be in this crisis.’”

That same article indicated that the business world had also noticed:

“‘Wal-Mart has raised the ante for every company in the country,’ said Adam Hanft, chief executive of Hanft Unlimited Inc., a New York branding and marketing firm. ‘This is going to change the face of corporate giving.’”

The Walton Family Foundation gave $8 million to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund in third-quarter 2005, according to the Million Dollar List, a website run by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. In 2006, the foundation donated another $8 million to the fund for a total of $16 million, more than any other donor, though Walgreens was right behind at $15 million.

Wal-Mart has plenty of critics, but few had anything but praise for the behemoth’s response to what was for many the soul-shattering experience of Katrina. The August 2005 hurricane was responsible for an estimated 1,200 deaths, according to the National Hurricane Center, though almost seven years on, the actual death toll remains debated.

On Wal-Mart’s website, a couple of weeks after Katrina, the company said that in addition to the cash contributions to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to help in emergency relief, the company had:

• Given $1 million each to the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.

• Provided $3 million worth of merchandise and in-kind donations throughout Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to shelters and command centers.



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