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The night before he delivered a moving keynote speech at a Main & Wall dinner, Randy Lewis, senior VP of distribution and logistics at Walgreens, was featured on “ABC World News.”

It’s hard to say which seems more unlikely, that a distribution and logistics VP would make primetime news—or that he would be the keynote speaker to an elite group of CEOs, CFOs, financial analysts and investment brokers. However, the story Lewis shared is in itself one of unlikely, yet unparalleled, successes.

At the Walgreens’ distribution center in Anderson, S.C., more than one-third of the work force has severe physical or cognitive disabilities. The employment model is even more unique because it is one of total inclusiveness. People with a wide range of skill levels, and limitations, perform the same jobs—with the same performance requirements and compensations for all.

“This DC is not just as good as our other DCs,” explained Lewis, “it’s better than the others.”

In fact, Walgreens is building another DC in Hartford, Conn., that will follow the same model, and by 2010 Walgreens expects to employ more than 1,000 disabled workers.

Walgreens invested more than $100 million in automation, technology and process accommodations at the Anderson DC, but the returns are measured in dollars, productivity and, more importantly, changed lives.

“This is the most meaningful thing we have ever done,” Lewis said.

His parting message to Main & Wall executives: “People with a lot less authority and power than you have, did a lot of good—and you have an opportunity to make a difference also.”

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