Houston, TX

Dollar General Community Spotlight: Serving Others When it Matters in Houston

Jake Cappuccino

NewsBreak brand partnership with Dollar General

Houston Dollar General Store Manager Sally Jimenez poses with District Manager Tyler Knight outside the DG on Aldine Mail Rte. Road.(Jake Cappuccino/NewsBreak)

By Jake Cappuccino

In March, NewsBreak visited a Dollar General store on Aldine Mail Rte. Road in North Houston. While there, we spoke with a few longtime employees, including District Manager Tyler Knight and Store Manager Sally Jimenez who each explained how Dollar General’s latest community partnership with Feeding America is another proof point of the company showing up for employees, customers and communities when it matters most.

Addressing food insecurity and access in Houston

Across Texas, food insecurity continues to be an issue for families further heightened by the pandemic. Feeding Texas last year found an average of one in eight Houston families struggled with food insecurity between 2018 and 2020, with that number jumping to one in four at the start of the pandemic.

Dollar General, the largest U.S. retailer by store count with more than 18,000 stores nationwide and more than 1,700 in Texas, aims to help. Last year, the company expanded its commitment to address food insecurity by teaming up with Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people annually.

In Houston, Dollar General began testing food donations with Feeding America and select stores collected and donated foods to benefit the greater Houston’s food insecurity needs.

Applying Dollar General’s operational excellence, the company’s mission of Serving Others and employees’ personal desire to help others, the number of stores participating in the pilot quickly doubled. Today, the Houston market is the largest contributor to Feeding America partners in the Lone Star state.

Dollar General employees seeking to support their local community played a big role in addressing food insecurity. Knight and Jimenez also hosted a local food donation drive last summer that provided 200 families with nourishing products from their local Dollar General stores.

“I lost my mother at 12 years old, so we struggled for a while, and my father relied on food banks to help feed my siblings and me,” Knight said. “Because of my experience, I have a more personal connection to our work with Feeding America and the Houston Food Bank. I also especially try to bring compassion when I speak with customers who may be experiencing what I did. I want them to understand I know what they’re going through. It feels great to be able to serve our community this way.”

Dollar General employees managing a food donation drive for the Houston Food Bank last year.(Dollar General)

Providing affordable and nutritious food to communities is another way Dollar General supports the Houston area.

In 2018, the company also created its Good & Smart house brand and has since expanded its Better for You merchandise to provide affordable, nutritious food options while meeting the growing demand for healthier food choices at the North Houston store and across its chains.

Dollar General also partnered with a registered nutritionist and provided resources to allow shoppers to find dietician-approved recipes that use foods found in every DG store and announced plans to offer fresh produce in up to 10,000 total stores in the coming years.

The store's Better for You aisle, which organizes healthier food options in one place.(Jake Cappuccino/NewsBreak)

Jimenez said she’s seeing more customers seek out healthier food options, taking advantage of both initiatives. Her store displays a large portion of its healthier foods in the Better for You section near the entrance, alongside roughly 34 coolers that provide customers with frozen and refrigerated options.

“Many of our stores are in food deserts — meaning there’s no other grocery options close to our location — making Dollar General a one-stop shop for residents to get their food, pet food and normal house necessities,” Jimenez said.

Here for what matters

When Hurricane Harvey impacted Houston in August 2017, the damage was catastrophic. The storm affected all 4.7 million people in Houston’s Harris County, causing $125 billion in damage and displacing over 60,000 residents from their homes.

Following the storm, some residents had few transport options amid power outages and flooded roads. But when residents needed resources and were within walking distance of their local DG, the teams were once again there to serve their community.

Jimenez and some of her team opened their store, knowing they could help residents get the most essential items – including bottled water, paper products, diapers, baby formula and shelf-stable foods – at a time they needed it most. Without power to run registers, Jimenez and her team set up a table outside the store. Customers would tell employees what items they needed, and employees would gather the products, writing down transactions to track for inventory purposes.

In recounting this story, it was clear Dollar General employees wouldn’t want it any other way. “We go to work, we roll up our sleeves, we’re proud to take care of our community,” Jimenez said. “We were all pushing to go to work to take care of the customer, and customers were saying they couldn’t believe we were open and grateful we were.”

When the skies cleared from Hurricane Harvey, an estimated 300,000 structures and 500,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed in Texas. Jimenez was one of those Texans impacted by the damage.

Her home was flooded, she lost all ground-floor possessions, and her vehicle was damaged. To support their team, Dollar General made an additional $1 million contribution to its Employee Assistance Foundation, which provides impacted employees – including Jimenez – with both immediate and ongoing financial support.

Jimenez praised Dollar General for its support throughout this challenging time. “They put us in the closest hotel available and reached out every day to make sure we were all OK. They even filled out the assistance paperwork for us.” Jimenez said. “They took care of us and were there for me when I needed it most. Their support and resources helped me to rebuild my life.”

Investing in talent

Jimenez and Knight outside of the Dollar General on Aldine Mail Rte. Road.(Jake Cappuccino/NewsBreak)

Dollar General’s deep connection to the local area makes sense given it employs members of the communities it serves. Jimenez and Knight’s careers are emblematic of the ways talent can grow within the company.

A native Texan, Jimenez has worked at Dollar General for 12 years. She is currently part of a new store manager ladder leadership program that provides supplemental business training, one-on-one training with a current district manager and exposure to new management tasks to develop her into a future district manager.

As for Knight, his time with Dollar General goes back to his college days. He took a job as a sales associate to help fund tuition costs, not fully expecting to start a career.

During his DG employment journey, Knight applied for and received the Turner Family Scholarship, an endowment open to all Dollar General employees that covers $1,500 in education costs.

More than a decade later, Knight leads 17 stores in the greater Houston area with future hopes of joining the company’s corporate human resources team. In the meantime, he continues teaching his customer-first mindset, coaching employees and inspiring talent like Jimenez.

“It’s been a blessing to have this job,” said Knight. “The mission itself of Serving Others makes it so impactful. I love what we do at Dollar General, and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”

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