Creating Connections in the Reston Community
12/30/2022 · Making a Difference
When the Reston, Virginia, Wegmans opens on Wednesday, February 1, the store team will already have contributed nearly $20,000 to their neighbors through community donations. At Wegmans, being a great neighbor in every community we serve is one of our top priorities, and we aim to start making a difference before we even open our doors to shoppers. Reston Store Manager Katie Sullivan and Reston Service Manager Amber Speziale discuss how we’ve already made connections within the Reston community and our plans for the future.
When did we start connecting with Reston community organizations?
Katie: This is one of the first things our recruiters do as soon as the hiring office is open. Typically, the first touch point is a phone call, but we also went out into the community to meet people in person. It’s nice to put a face with a name. The world is so busy, to be able to actually see someone and speak with them in person is so valuable, it’s completely different than a quick email or call.
Since opening the hiring office in April 2022, we’ve sponsored and participated in several community events. We were part of the annual Reston community yard sale, which is a huge event, bringing in about 1800 people each year. We had a booth at the Reston Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and our employees handed out bananas and water. Our recruiters quickly developed a relationship with the Reston YMCA, and they’ve been a great partner ever since. They’ve allowed us to hold hiring events and our community meeting at their location, and helped to spread the word that we’re coming to town. Overall, we wanted to let people know we are here, and we also wanted to see how we could support them.
Can you tell me more about the community meeting?
Amber: The community meeting is a great way for us to get to know the movers and shakers in the community. We invited representatives from the Reston YMCA, the local high schools, the food pantry, Shepherds Center, the Reston Chamber of Commerce, the Reston Association, the local history museum, and several more nonprofits. It was eye-opening. Many of the participants have lived in Reston for 25+ years and they’re all very connected in this community, which you don’t realize until you get face to face. So many people already know each other and are so interconnected in the work they do. We all sat down together, and we asked them open ended questions – what are the biggest needs in this area, how can we make the biggest impact, and what can we do for you?
Katie: Our Dulles store is 6 miles down the road, but it’s not part of Reston. This meeting was a chance for us to learn, listen, and explain what we’re about and how we can impact the community through the different services we offer. It’s foolish to come into a community and assume you know everything about it. Yes, we can read about it and try to understand, but talking to the people who live and work here really helped us to learn about what they value and need. Everyone wanted to work together. We all have a common goal: to make the community better.
How will you continue supporting the community once the store opens?
Amber: Our goal is to stay as connected as we can with our community partners. We can do this through the usual donation process, but we also plan to seek out additional events that we can be a part of annually. We want to find those special traditions and events that we can participate in year after year.
Katie: Donations are just one piece of what we do, but being active in the community is vital. We want to understand where the need is, and how we can actively address it. Our employees are so passionate, they want to be part of what is happening, whether that’s donating their time or their skills. We all want to make a difference in this community.
What’s to Come
The store has already donated funds or products to many local organizations, and has more in the works. This spring, five graduating seniors from two local high schools will each receive a $1,000 scholarship grant as a symbolic nod to our Employee Scholarship Program. The store is also donating $1,000 to the food pantry at South Lakes High School.
In addition, the store will present a $10,000 donation to Food for Others. The funds will help the food bank to expand their “My Market” facility, enabling their clients to select their own food in a market-style environment. The new market will also feature a community space where families can access other important services. Food for Others will also receive daily donations of safe-to-eat and wholesome perishable food from the Reston store after it opens in February.
The Reston team is looking forward to welcoming their new neighbors into the store on opening day and expanding on the connections they’ve already made.
“If you look around Reston, you’ll see all these amazing buildings and spaces, and you might assume it’s a rich community. It is a wealthy area, but the people here understand that not everyone has the same resources, and there are a lot of programs to make sure everyone in the community gets the help they need – regardless of their race, sex, religious background, everyone is welcome. Those values align perfectly with how we operate at Wegmans – we want to be a welcoming place for everyone to shop,” said Katie.
Get to Know Katie and Amber
Katie worked in the restaurant industry before she decided to change her career path 14 years ago for an opportunity at Wegmans. She found that her work at Wegmans better aligned with her values and allowed her to pursue her passion for great food while working with great people. She began at our Lake Manassas, Virginia, store as the chef case team leader and worked her way through several departments before moving to Leesburg to become service manager. She then spent 6 years at our Dulles store as the perishable manager. She was a store manager at Dulles for a short time and helped with preparing the Carlyle store for opening before being named store manager at Reston. Katie and a team of recruiters opened the Reston hiring office in April 2022 and she has been busy preparing the store for its grand opening ever since.
Amber joined Wegmans in 2010 as a part-time coffee shop employee at the Irondequoit, New York, store. She worked on the front end, and at the service desk before moving to Buffalo, New York, where she eventually become service desk team leader. When the Pub opened at the Transit Road store, she was Pub team leader and then the Pub restaurant manager before relocating to Fredericksburg, Virginia, as the cafe manager. She spent some time as an employee advocate at the Lake Manassas store before coming onboard as the service manager for Reston in August 2022. At Reston, Amber will lead the front end, customer service desk, maintenance team, helping hands (parking lot attendants), accounting office, and the e-commerce teams for cart-to-curb and Meals 2GO. She will ensure incredible customer service, a point of distinction at Wegmans, and will also supervise local community giving.
Wegmans Reston opens at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, February 1. For more information about the new store, visit our website at https://www.wegmans.com/reston.