For more than 25 years, Walgreens has partnered with the Chicago Urban League, providing significant volunteer and financial support for the League's programs and initiatives. In 2013, Walgreens Co. President & CEO, Gregory P. Wasson served as co-chair of the League's signature fundraising gala, the "Golden Fellowship Dinner." Recently, Walgreens staff volunteers provided inoculations for student travelers participating in the League's "Student Mission to China" initiative.In the following Q&A, John Gremer, Director of Community Affairs at Walgreens, discusses Walgreens' commitment to social responsibility initiatives, how volunteering, philanthropy and leadership development work together, and the shared missions between Walgreens and the Chicago Urban League.
John Gremer, Director of Community Affairs at Walgreens
Describe your role with Walgreens.Like my nearly 250,000 teammates, my role is to help our customers get, stay and live well. As the director of community affairs, my focus is to ensure that our community outreach and corporate philanthropy support that same goal.
How do philanthropy, volunteerism and leadership development work together within Walgreens’ broader corporate social responsibility and community outreach?At our core, Walgreens is a service organization. Our focus is to help individuals and the communities in which we operate become healthier. Because our corporate philanthropy and community outreach are linked to the same focus, our hope is that their impact is accumulative. Those individuals who embrace providing excellent service are the ones who typically embrace volunteerism and outreach and are the individuals who move into leadership positions. Last year, our store employees conducted 19,850 events for their local communities donating 851,894 volunteer hours of service. Event types varied greatly and ranged from health fairs, fundraisers, health screenings and awareness, child safety, senior fairs, community clean-up days, career days at schools to local parades and holiday events.Can you speak to the importance of Walgreens’ social responsibility initiatives like the ‘Way to Well Tour’?
The Way to Well Tour is designed to help empower individuals and provide them knowledge in regard to their health. Too often African American and Hispanic communities are impacted disproportionately by preventable and treatable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. The tour, which provides blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol and body mass index tests, is an important tool to provide free and convenient testing. At the National Urban League Conference this year in Cincinnati, we celebrated providing more than one million people with free tests with our partners, the National Urban League and AARP. Again, developing programs that benefit the community and having partners which make them successful is key to helping people get, stay and live well.
What does the ideal partnership with a non-profit organization look like to Walgreens?
A great partner has shared goals and a shared focus on results.
An ideal partner has those qualities and shared values and passion.
The closer you are aligned with your partner, the more effective you can be and provide exceptional results.
I can’t say it any better than National Urban League President and CEO Mark Morial, “We share a commitment to improving the health outcomes in our communities and are looking forward to continuing to work together to empower people to live healthier lives."
Why has Walgreens remained a longtime partner of the Chicago Urban League and how do you see the partnership evolving moving forward?
The Chicago Urban League and Walgreens not only share a mission, but we also believe that all people should have equal opportunity for success and health. Over the years our partnership will take different forms and manifest itself in different programs as needs and circumstances dictate. I believe that because both organizations value service, we will always find new ways to work together. Like any partnership, ours will change as our organizations grow and will provide new opportunities. For example, this spring we were able to provide free travel vaccinations and counseling to Chicago Urban League's Student Mission to China travelers. While the focus of the program was to create more knowledgeable global citizens, our focus was to help ensure the students’ health as they traveled. Because of our shared beliefs, passions and goals, the Chicago Urban League is a valued partner. We are proud to partner with the League and of our shared service to the citizens of Chicago.