Let’s talk turkey.
Make that turkeys. Fifty of them.
A few days before Thanksgiving, while you might have been prepping for travel or planning a dish for your family feast, Sheila Teague and a small group of helpers were popping open their car trunks in Harvey, Ill., a working-class suburb just south of Chicago. It’s not easy for a lot of folks in Harvey. More than a third of the city is at or below the poverty line. Unemployment is high. So is crime.
“In some areas, you may go one block, and out of 20 houses, 15 could be abandoned, boarded up,” says Teague, a Chicago minister and Walgreens cashier in southwest suburban Oak Lawn, Ill. “And some of the people are really in need. So when I first saw the condition of the area, it really touched me and I felt I had to do something.”
“Something” started last year with smaller trips to Harvey, where Teague and other volunteers handed out home-cooked food, hats, gloves and socks to anyone who might need them.
This last time, for Thanksgiving, it was 50 frozen turkeys – surprise gestures of love from strangers. The turkeys were gone in 45 minutes.
For two specially chosen families, Teague went even further: supplies for an entire Thanksgiving meal – not just the turkey but everything else. One woman had recently lost her sister and daughter in separate tragedies within a week and now had eight kids to feed – three of her own, plus her sister’s five. Teague made sure they got the biggest bird.
She had ordered and purchased all the food from a local grocer, using the connections of a Walgreens co-worker, Antonio Reyna, to arrange a good deal. The money came from church members and sponsors and, as usual, from her own pocket. It’s not new – her intense devotion to helping. Fellow Walgreens team members, including store manager Shawn Greenan, are some of Teague’s most frequent contributors whenever she’s planning a new project – and there’s always a new project.
“I know my manager gets tired of me asking for donations,” she says, laughing, half-addressing Greenan, who’s within earshot. “But it’s for a good cause.”
As you might imagine, Greenan isn’t tired of it at all.
“It’s inspiring,” he says later. “Sheila brings an energy that’s contagious and super-important for our whole team.”
From school supplies to stomachsTeague’s focus now is on collecting toys – both in support of her district’s toy drive for the local Ronald McDonald House and for a personal return trip to Harvey later this month. Her goal was initially 100 toys for Harvey, but with enough people chipping in, she thinks she might be able to hand out 300. Two days in, she’d already purchased 69 toys, taking advantage of Walgreens sales around Black Friday to maximize her shopping dollars. She likes to do the shopping at Walgreens whenever possible, supporting her own store. It’s just the right thing to do.
There’s a lot of that with Teague – and certainly not just during the holidays. In 2017, she led a fundraising effort to buy and fill 30 backpacks with school supplies, which Walgreens gave to children in need at a local health fair. Leftover candy after Halloween – which Walgreens stores often donate – has made its way to local senior programs thanks to Teague’s connections. Before Mother’s Day, she randomly selected five young men in her community, giving them bags filled with bath and body products so they’d have something special to give their moms.
And then there’s the food. Once a month from March to November, Teague and her family – brothers Victor and Darrell, daughter Cianna and granddaughter Crystal – fire up two grills and prepare enough hot, homemade food to pass out to 100 people in an underserved area on Chicago’s South Side. They pay for most of it themselves, with donations from sponsors and Teague’s Walgreens co-workers.
“A lot of times, we’ll take up a collection within the store, donating canned goods when she’s making these meals,” says Greenan. “The neighborhoods where she does this are neighborhoods that people don’t always go into, and she not only involves her whole family, but has had team members come out to help her, to go with her to give out the meals.”
‘She inspires everyone’Teague, whose competitive streak is known across her district, brings the same all-for-one team mentality to Walgreens fundraising efforts in-store.
“Whether it’s a company-wide campaign like Red Nose Day or ME to WE, or supporting a local organization like Turning Pointe Autism Foundation, Sheila involves and inspires the entire store team, from pharmacists to overnight cashiers, to help the store’s goal to be No. 1,” says Stephen Peterson, the area director of retail and pharmacy operations for Walgreens. “She truly inspires everyone to be a better version of themselves.”
And that includes her customers at the holidays, as the first smiling face they see when they come through the door. “I love being there to be nice and friendly,” she says. “You never know what people are going through.”
Greenan would expect nothing less from a top-shelf elf.
“Sheila,” he says, “can’t help herself but to do good.”