At the heart of a community, pharmacies play an integral role in the daily lives of their base, providing essential goods and supportive advice on products and services that affect our well-being.
Since the onset of COVID-19, Walgreens has risen to the task as both a community and consumer ally, and an essential service provider at its 9,200 physical locations nationwide.
“It’s been an amazing experience for us to be a part of the whole country coming together in support of trying to keep everyone as safe and secure as possible,” says Patrick McLean, senior vice president, chief marketing officer for Walgreens. “I’m really proud of all of our team members — they really are the heroes.”
At Walgreens, additional customer service features include free shipping, accelerated drive-thru purchasing and a curbside pickup option, says McLean.
Through an expanded partnership with Postmates, which offers local delivery of goods, “We’ve learned more about the demand for our retail products,” says McLean. “All these safety and prevention techniques and investments we’ve made aren’t going away anytime soon. They will stay in place indefinitely.”
Walgreens’ commitment to the community is further demonstrated through its philanthropic endeavors. On Red Nose Day on May 21, (the sixth annual fund-raising campaign run by the Comic Relief US public charity to end child poverty) Walgreens continued its support while having to quickly adapt the way in which it participated.
Unlike in previous years, the iconic and symbolic red noses weren’t for sale. Instead, those interested in supporting and raising awareness of the cause could unlock their own digital red nose by donating online. Thousands of employees posted digital nose filters on social-media networks, sharing internally with team members and challenging them to show their best red nose shots, says McLean.
“Red Nose Day has always supported the most vulnerable children in America and around the world, and this year, the health crisis made it clear there was a greater urgency to help than ever before,” McLean said in a recent press release. “Walgreens was honored to work with Comic Relief US on the first digital red nose, which allowed us all to continue to come together, even while we remained apart, in support of such an important cause.”
Over the last six years, the Red Nose Day campaign has raised more than $230 million, including nearly $32 million so far in the 2020 campaign.
Walgreens debuted Frontline Hero Discount Day on April 25, offering a special 30 percent discount to celebrate front-line workers. “It was a really successful day for us,” says McLean. Additionally, they have collaborated with AT&T and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, to co-create an initiative in response to the uncertainty facing kids and families as the virus situation evolves. At SesameStreet.org, resources are provided to help parents comfort kids and manage anxiety, as well as stay mentally and physically healthy. A campaign was released including a Muppet video thanking “Super Families” of essential workers, many of whom have young kids.
“In communities across the country, our customers often look to their local Walgreens team members as a sign of comfort, whether that’s for filling a prescription or finding the perfect gift,” said Richard Ashworth, president of Walgreens, in a recent press release. “Now, it is more important than ever in these unprecedented times, that we explain to children about essential workers and their roles while also celebrating their extraordinary care.”
Teachers are also working to address social issues in their classrooms amid this global health crisis, and Walgreens’ WE Teachers program, a no-cost curriculum for educators across the country, offers teachers across the country free resources with training, modules and the WE Teachers Award. This celebrates teachers who have an impact on their communities.
With a gravely rising need for mental-health resources since the COVID-19 outbreak, Walgreens has also completed its first phase of pharmacist training in mental-health first aid, which is administered by the National Council for Behavioral Health and accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Pharmacists are being taught to understand the risk factors and warning signs for mental-health and addiction concerns and strategies for how to help in both crisis and noncrisis situations.
Service to community has always been at the heart of the Walgreens brand’s values. Kevin Hook, a store manager at Walgreens in Chicago who’s been with the company for more than 20 years, oversees 100 employees. His location is one of the busiest stores within the company.
Once the coronavirus hit, Hook says his store had to swiftly switch gears.
“We had fewer tourists and more people who lived in the neighborhood,” he says of a quick switch to carrying more cleaning products, paper goods and grocery items.
Hook is constantly checking in with his team members to ensure they are feeling alright.
“As a dad, it’s especially upsetting to know that children are often left most vulnerable when something like this happens,” he says. “We rallied around the Red Nose Day cause, knowing funds raised help children in our local communities to have meals, have a safe place to sleep, receive health-care services and access to educational programs. It really does foster a stronger sense of community, and bring us closer together as a Walgreens team,” says Hook. “People often refer to their local store as ‘my Walgreens,’ because they feel a sense of kindness and community there. Kindness has been at the route of our culture well before the pandemic and as an essential business.”