Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Journey of a Nonprofit Steward: Balancing Music, Motherhood, and the Walgreen Benefit Fund


In the year 1939, Charles R. Walgreen Sr. established the Walgreen Benefit Fund by donating 2,500 shares of Walgreens stock with the aim of aiding employees and retirees who were facing severe financial difficulties.

Fast forward to January 2022, I was appointed as the Manager of Strategy and Operations for the Fund, directly reporting to the board president, Mike Oettinger. My role involved managing the daily operations as well as the broader strategy, fundraising, and governance of the Fund. This marked the first instance of the Walgreen Benefit Fund having a dedicated full-time position solely focused on leading the Fund. The advent of the pandemic and the subsequent increase in employee hardships underscored the necessity to invest more time, energy, and effort into further developing and promoting the Fund.

Walgreens has always been characterized by a culture of care, and I am privileged to be a part of it.

My Path to Walgreens
One of my fundamental principles has always been to give back to society. After completing my college education, I joined the Teach for America program and have since dedicated my career to working for nonprofit organizations that assist those in need.

During the pandemic, a close friend and I launched a venture named the Six Capacities, which offered a curriculum centered around personal wellness. A close acquaintance and a family member of one of our Walgreen Benefit Fund board members attended a Six Capacities retreat. When this job opportunity arose, they recommended me for the position, believing that I would be an excellent fit. This connection to the opportunity through my personal passion for helping individuals care for and love themselves was deeply meaningful to me.

In my capacity with the Fund, I collaborate with various internal team members who offer support for the Fund’s activities. Many of these individuals volunteer their time and skills to the organization while also managing their regular responsibilities at Walgreens. The willingness of these individuals to devote so much of their time and effort is truly inspiring to me.

In the fiscal year 2023, the Walgreen Benefit Fund distributed $2.7 million in grants to team members. This included aid for emergencies related to natural disasters and for qualifying general financial hardship situations, such as long-term illness, serious injury, unsafe living conditions, and the death of a team member or family member. For instance, one of our team members who lost her home in the Maui wildfires this summer was awarded an emergency displacement grant to secure temporary housing for her family. The Fund also provided her with an additional financial hardship grant to secure a new apartment.

Our fundraising efforts are typically divided into four categories, with the largest being contributions from team member payrolls. Last year, this category accounted for over $220,000 of our total fundraising. Other sources of donations include employee fundraisers, external vendors, individual donors, and contributions from Walgreens itself.

My entire career has been devoted to nonprofit work. It’s truly remarkable to be able to apply all the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated over the years on such a large scale, especially with a brand and company as iconic as Walgreens.

A Glimpse into My Daily Life
I reside in Bellevue, Washington, with my husband Keith, our 9-year-old son Jack, and our two rescue dogs: Buster, a 7-year-old lab pit bull mix, and Fred, a 3-year-old hunting dog mix. We relocated here from Chicago in August 2022 when Keith landed his dream job at the Gates Family Foundation. Both of us have careers in the nonprofit sector.

My day usually begins at around 6 a.m. with some journaling. I’m a strong advocate for wellness, so I kickstart my day with a vegetable smoothie. Being in the Pacific Time zone allows me to get a head start on my day by liaising with the team in Chicago that administers the grants. We review the previous day’s grant activity and then touch base with the grant review committee to ensure they can make decisions on new grants or applications that were received the previous day. So, every morning starts with a review of what was accomplished the previous day and what needs to be done today.

After getting my son ready for school and dropping him off, I usually practice yoga. The rest of my day is filled with regular check-ins with my boss, our board president who assists me in overseeing everything, and meetings with board members who have various responsibilities within the Fund. I meet with our treasurer, as the proper flow of money is crucial for the foundation’s operation, and connect with board members from Walgreens’ Legal, Communications, and HR departments, as well as the Security Operations Center. While I may not meet with everyone every day, I do interact with everyone on a weekly basis.

Creative Expression
Emerging from the pandemic, it seemed like we were all burdened with a lot of stress. Finding an outlet that brings me joy and allows me to express my true self has been crucial. For me, that outlet is music. My Grandma Babe, who passed away about 10 years ago, was my closest friend. She was an extraordinarily gifted pianist who instilled in me the importance of music.

After relocating to Washington, I exacerbated an old sports injury, which led to the need for spinal surgery. During my recovery, I realized the importance of engaging in an activity that was both joyful and therapeutic. After conducting some research, I connected with the School of Rock to take voice lessons. At my first lesson, they invited me to join their adult band, which consists of about 20 people.
Every Sunday night, we convene to play music together, and we hold a concert every four months, each with a unique musical theme. My first concert was themed “The Roots of Rock,” followed by a “Best of the Eighties” theme over the summer. Currently, we’re in the process of preparing for a Fleetwood Mac-themed concert scheduled for January.

While I was expecting Jack, I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, believing that creativity would play a significant role in my life as a mother and in my child’s life. As it turns out, I was correct. Jack, at the age of 9, is an exceptionally gifted and productive artist who already runs his own art business. He has a fascination with the eerily macabre and aspires to emulate Tim Burton as he grows older. As his mother, I couldn’t be prouder.

I also take immense pride in my role as the custodian of the Walgreen Benefit Fund, an invaluable resource that has helped countless individuals. The significance of assisting our team members during times of financial distress cannot be overstated. While the monetary aid may not completely resolve their situation, it can certainly help to mitigate the stress they’re experiencing.