OK, I admit that in a few short months i've shoved a lot of requests down your throats. Back in July, I told you all to get involved in your local government, take a stand on the issues, and get out and vote.
Last month, I urged readers to spread the word outside the logistics and distribution community about the minor miracles—and countless good deeds— performed by logistics professionals every day.
This month's message trumps them all. Our special report on site selection (page 36) examines a new distribution center constructed by drugstore chain Walgreens. The $175 million facility, located in Anderson, S.C., is highly automated and is the chain's most efficient yet. But that's not the story.
Prior to building the DC, Walgreens officials decided to staff the facility with as many disabled employees as possible. Today, 47 percent of the workers at the site have a physical or cognitive disability, including autism and cerebral palsy.
"A lot of us in business underestimate our ability to make change," says Randy Lewis, senior vice president of distribution and logistics at Walgreens.
But Walgreens is making big changes—not only in the way its DCs are built and staffed—but for the more than 200 disabled employees working in them. The facility's outreach coordinator—who herself has cerebral palsy—maintained a 4.0 grade point average while earning her master's degree, but was shunned by most prospective employers. Many of the disabled workers are bringing home their first steady paychecks ever, and are brimming with newfound self confidence after a few weeks on the job. Some families have moved across the country so their handicapped son or daughter can work at the facility.
"I get tons of thank-you letters, mostly from parents who hope that now there might be some hope for their son or daughter," says Lewis. "It makes you realize that if we're ringing the bell with 200 employees in that building, what's the plight [of the disabled] in this country? There are a lot of people out there in need. I don't think there are enough government dollars to take care of this, so this is where businesses can make a difference."
So go ahead and take the plunge. Start small. Contact the disability agencies in your area. Tell them you want to consider hiring disabled employees for vacancies in your DC. They'll steer you in the right direction. Give somebody the chance to bring home his or her first paycheck—not to mention coming home with a smile on his or her face.
The overwhelming feeling of joy that you get from giving somebody a new lease on life will be one of the most emotional experiences ever. Randy Lewis will vouch for that.