Lee Scott, Wal-Mart president and chief executive officer, said the Bentonville, Ark. retailer will commit $15 million to jump-start relief efforts after President George W. Bush called on Congress late Thursday to approve $10.5 billion in federal aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Senate and House leaders announced rare sessions before the Labor Day weekend to authorize the funds. As a related announcement, former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton will lead efforts to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
As part of Wal-Mart's commitment it will establish mini-Wal-Mart stores in areas impacted by the hurricane. The stores will give away essential items, including clothing, diapers, baby wipes, food, formula toothbrushes, bedding, and water.
Through its Associate Disaster Relief Fund the company is giving displaced employees immediate funds for shelter, food, clothing and other necessities. Wal-Mart previously donated $2 million in cash to aid emergency relief efforts and has been collecting contributions at its 3,800 stores and Sam's clubs, and through its Web sites.
Wal-Mart also has created an Internet and in-store service to allow Wal-Mart associates and the general public to post messages and inquiries to family and friends affected by the hurricane. The sites are available on walmart.com, samsclub.com, walmartstores.com, and walmartfacts.com. Consumers also can access this information at the Hiring Center, Connection Center and Gift Registry kiosks in any Wal-Mart Store, Sam's Club, or Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.
Telecommunications in the area is shaky. Most messages on the site are posted by family members and friends. Amana Meyers in Summit Point, W.Va., is looking for Stephen Smith in Mississippi, asking him to "Please contact me when you can." Some are posted by victims that have reached safety. Through a posting on Sept. 1, Louda Smith in Brookhaven, Miss., wants her friends and family to know "Everyone is okay" and "will make contact when possible."
Activity on the informational Web site is growing fast. Wal-Mart says that since the site went up yesterday, 2,238 messages have been posted from people outside the company, 1,582 from employees, and 209,543 total Web-site hits.