Walmart-sponsored nonprofits help Northwest Arkansas storm relief efforts

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 329 views 

Brooks Nelson said after the tornadoes and severe weather that hit Benton County on May 26, Walmart worked with nonprofit partners to bring in mobile units to provide basic services like showers, meals, battery chargers and laundry.

Nelson, the Walmart senior manager for disaster preparedness and response, said the retailer and its foundation spent around $4 million over the past two years to partner with nonprofits to build and operate disaster-response mobile units that can be deployed across the country.

“The last thing a person wants to lose is connection when disaster strikes. The charging stations allow impacted families to reach out to their loved ones to let them know they are okay. The Big Blue mobile pharmacy that Walmart runs was not needed in this crisis as the stores and pharmacies were able to remain open,” Nelson said.

Cincinnati-based Matthew 25 Ministries brought two mobile units to Rogers, setting up a P&G Mobile Shower unit and a Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry trailer. Ben Wilkins, the nonprofit’s chief disaster resource officer, said the units arrived on May 30. They were set up at the Walmart Neighborhood Market, located at 1819 S. Eighth St., in Rogers.

Wilkins said the laundry unit completed more than 600 loads for residents in need over the past five days. The mobile unit has six washers and seven dryers and can handle up to 150 loads a day. The mobile shower unit has five separate spaces that include a diaper changing station, toilet, sink and shower. Wilkins said the unit has provided about 100 showers to residents and storm workers in need.

Nelson said Walmart also called on Kansas City-based Operation BBQ Relief. David Marks, head of business development, brought the rig to Rogers and set it up next to the Matthew 25 Ministries units. Marks said the nonprofit was founded in 2011 in the wake of the Joplin, Mo., tornado. Since that time, the nonprofit has provided 11 million free meals. He said in Rogers, the unit has provided hundreds of meals in the past five days to those impacted by the storms and the emergency response crews dispatched to the area.

Also in Rogers, in cooperation with Walmart and the Walmart Foundation, the Fort Worth-based Information Technology Disaster Resource Center  (ITDRC) operates a battery charging truck that allows for the charging of phones, tablets and laptops. Joe Hillis and his wife Debbie run that service. Hillis said the truck has 32 charging bays and a handicap charging station. He said early on the station was busy in the first few days following the storm. He said the nonprofit has five units co-branded with Walmart. There are also charging trucks parked in Decatur and at the Neighborhood Market at the intersection of 8th Street and Walnut Street in Rogers.