Superstore Wal-Mart donated $200,000 in gift cards to the Salvation Army to be distributed in eight U.S. communities this holiday season, the evangelical charity announced Wednesday.
The gifts cards will help thousands of underprivileged families across the country to purchase toys, clothing, food and other items this Christmas.
"We are delighted that Wal-Mart is making this extremely generous donation to help families in need this Christmas," said Commissioner Israel Gaither, National Commander of The Salvation Army.
"Wal-Mart has always been a very strong and very visible partner with the Army. These cards will help make Christmas a little brighter for those who might otherwise go without."
Each of the eight needy communities will receive 500 gift cards totaling $25,000 through a local Salvation Army corps. The charity will begin distributing the $50 gift cards to families this week in the following areas: Anchorage, Alaska; Ashland, Ohio; Benton Harbor, Mich.; Camden, N.J.; Detroit, Mich.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Portland, Ore.; and the Northern West Virginia Panhandle.
"Wal-Mart takes great pride in being able to help The Salvation Army continue its important work in these communities," said Margaret McKenna, President of the Wal-Mart Foundation, in a statement.
"From Red Kettles in front of all of our stores across the country to partnerships like this one, we remain committed to giving back."
But a group of Baptist ministers would disagree with McKenna, arguing that Wal-Mart has not done enough for its community. The pastors are part of the WakeUpWalMart.com campaign which launched a national television ad campaign against the retailer this past Monday.
"Wal-Mart rakes in over $21,000 in profit every single minute. This Christmas, let's make Wal-Mart be a better neighbor to us all," said the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, interim pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church of Nashville, in the ad.
Specifically, the ad calls on Wal-Mart to pay fair wage, provide affordable healthcare, and ensure the safety of the goods it sells – noting that most of its merchandise come from China.
"Wal-Mart is not the epitome of all unfairness and injustice in the world but it's just that they are the biggest," said Johnson in an interview with The Christian Post. "We want these corporate neighbors to have more equitable policies for their employees.
The ad is part of the third annual "Hope for the Holidays" campaign by WakeUpWalMart.com, which spent over $1.5 million in radio and TV ads to raise awareness to the multi-billion-dollar retailer's unique responsibility toward the communities it represents.
The television ad is being aired in 35 markets across the country.
Community and religious leaders from more than 40 cities and towns have also began holding candlelight prayer vigils outside Wal-Mart store since Monday, offering prayers and handing out "Think before you shop" holiday cards to shoppers.
The Salvation Army, however, is "grateful" for the gift card donation by corporate giant Wal-Mart which will help its effort in serving nearly 5 million people at Christmas and 35 million people throughout the year.