COVID-19 Heroes: Sheppard AFB Associate Honored for Keeping Shoppers Safe
Orange juice, lip balm, ramen noodles, shampoo: What reads like a simple grocery list to most people may actually be a lifeline for others.
Karen Graves knows this firsthand. An administrative assistant at the Sheppard Air Force Base Exchange, she recently received a Hero Award for her work managing the store’s personal shopper program.
The award, which honors associates who have gone above and beyond to protect the force during the COVID-19 pandemic, was presented to Graves by Facility Manager Patricia Fulkerson during a December ceremony at the main store.
At Sheppard AFB, AITs and those with Temporary Duty orders (TDYs) must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival at the installation as a precautionary measure.
As part of the personal shopper program that the Exchange implemented in 2020 at more than 40 installations, AITs and those on TDY staying at one of Sheppard AFB’s 16 restricted quarantine or isolation buildings can order snacks, drinks, personal hygiene items and other essentials via phone and email from the Exchange.
The Sheppard Exchange personal shopper team fulfills up to 10 orders per day, which are organized by Graves and a team of associates who hand-select the requested items from the shelves.
After contacting shoppers to collect payments, Graves coordinates deliveries to several drop-off locations at the installation. From there, they are distributed by an intermediary to the customers, usually on the same or next day.
Toothpaste, soap, laundry detergent, pasta and candy are among the most-requested items, Graves said. If specific flavors or brands are unavailable, she recommends substitutions.
“We make sure our shoppers are satisfied with the items they receive,” she said. “There are some that we speak with several times during the quarantine period, so we get to know what products they prefer. Those in quarantine are really appreciate the service we provide. They thank us all the time.”
Sheppard Exchange General Manager Donald Walter said Graves “really took the initiative to make sure that we are doing all we can to serve the best customers in the world so that they can feel at home and comfortable during a difficult time. Karen works tirelessly to make sure these Warfighters have what they want and need.”
Graves said it is an honor to receive a Hero Award. However, “I don’t feel like a hero. I’m grateful every day for the opportunity to serve our Nation’s heroes.”