LETTERS OF SUPPORT DELIVERED
For Immediate Release
January 11, 2020
The Be A Friend Project
~ national non-profit delivering peer support to bullied kids ~
2019 "UNSUNG HERO OF THE YEAR" AWARD
Amazon Relay Operations Center Team
Traci Buemi Chris Wong Wes Erith
The Relay Operation Center (ROC) is the central command and control center for Transportation Execution across the Amazon Supply Chain network. During their pre-holiday peak of demand, these "Amazon Empathy Warriors" STEPPED UP to locate a package lost by another shipper in order to bring the support of over 1,000 Be A Friend Project kids & teens to a young victim of bullying, and then, under the inspiration of their own fierce hearts, they brought their own.
"It's the feel-good “faith in humanity restored" story you’ve been waiting for… one that connects the dots between a 10-year-old bullied girl in Chicago, who felt all alone, to one of the world's largest e-commerce company's called AMAZON to create a holiday miracle."
By Jennifer Young
Be A Friend Project, Inc.
This HOLIDAY MIRACLE begins on November 21st, 2019, when the United Parcel Service (UPS) lost our package of 1,438 letters of peer support that took 6 weeks to collect from K-12 students across the country to a victim of bullying, this one a 10-year-old girl outside of Chicago named "Sydney." There were only 24 hours to spare before her family’s surprise presentation that would help Sydney stay strong and know she was not alone.
The Saturday morning before Sunday's surprise presentation, Sydney's mom, Stephanie, texted me: “Good Morning, the package did not come.”
How could that be? UPS had notified me that the package was delivered at 10:02am last Thursday, as scheduled. I checked the tracking more carefully and discovered that indeed it was delivered, but to a town called JOLIET one hour away from Sydney's home in Frankfort and with no street address listed!!
“We have opened an investigation," the UPS Agent told me. "Investigations can take up to 8 days. There is nothing more we can do,” I pleaded, “Where is your compassion??” I’m not proud of that, the UPS Agent was just doing his job. But as the Executive Director of this non-profit that has already delivered over 20,000 letters of support in four years without a mishap, I was doing mine, too. Sydney’s parents had a caterer and family gathering at their home in the morning for this planned presentation of "Friend Mail." There were 1,438 K-12 student ambassadors and their educators across the country waiting for pictures of their letters of support in Sydney's hands. Most importantly, there was a little girl who needed to know she was FRIEND STRONG and not alone after she had spent months fearfully carting jackets and water bottles on demand for her bullies who also spread rumors about her, stole her things and told others not to play with her, until feelings of worthlessness took over and she pleaded daily to stay home from school, like most bullying victims. I could not let this child down!
I demanded to be transferred to a UPS Supervisor. “Why are you protecting the location of your misdelivery?? I know it’s right there on the screen in front of you!! You have tracking! The mom could pick it up. Please, we need a Thanksgiving miracle!”
After a pause, the first miracle happened, this UPS Supervisor gave it up. The package was misdelivered to “Dock” at an Amazon Warehouse in Joliet, Illinois. But, he could not contact them. Plus, it was a weekend. There were no UPS drivers able to go get it and bring it to the correct location one hour away in Frankfort. They would not fix their mistake. We'd have to wait for their investigation. Still, I thanked him profusely for going rogue, and hung up.
“Well... I know where it is, it’s at the Amazon Distribution Warehouse in Joliet," I texted Stephanie.
At the time, I was picturing one loading dock and one manageable warehouse where a misdelivered 25" x 18" x 16" package would stick out like a sore thumb. I was so naive. I have since come to understand that just one Amazon warehouse can be the size of 28 football fields with miles of conveyor belts holding millions of items, most picked and packed by robots of a sort, not humans, and “shipping labels practically flying onto packages, blown by puffs of air,” as explained in a description of an Amazon Warehouse Tour.
Not only that, this lost package was not any responsibility of Amazon’s. They did not have to help me. They had no part in it. The package had been dropped days ago. Also, it was Thanksgiving week and pre-Christmas rush. These workers don't have time to break for the bathroom, never mind help this lady calling from New York find a package filled with paper that they didn't lose.
I made no progress within Amazon's warehouse voice mail system until I dared hit the number for “Security,” the number an internal worker calls to report an emergency. I GOT A PERSON. She didn't get mad at my interloping into their security line, instead she transferred me to the department she thought could help… their Relay Operations Center. I pictured an office upstairs in the Illinois warehouse.
“Wes” took my call. He listened. I heard empathy in his voice. OMG, HE CARED. I considered this another miracle. Wes transferred me to his Supervisor, "Traci." Again, I heard empathy. After my hours pleading with phone agents too frazzled and hesitant to reveal anything on a recorded line, hearing empathy in these Amazon voices literally filled me with hope and I wanted to cry.
I texted Stephanie: “I think it’s gonna happen. They are into it. Wes and his Supervisor, Traci.”
Traci promised to get back to me before the end of her shift, and I believed her. A couple of hours later, Traci called back. I could tell she was truly disappointed. They could not locate Sydney’s package. That’s when I found out three overwhelming facts:
1. That this Relay Operations Team was actually in Tempe, Arizona, not in the warehouse in Joliet, Illinois.
2. That the package was not being looked for physically, but via electronically combing through “case reports” for errant packages.
3. That there were really 4 (FOUR!!) giant Amazon Warehouses in Joliet and a bunch more in neighboring Lockport, all possibilities for the UPS wrong delivery.
Traci just couldn’t do much more without an actual address. But she would continue to hunt before she left for the day.
I considered giving up. I had tried my best. Or had I? I called the UPS 800 number once again. I gave a young agent my tracking info. As soon as he opened the case, he saw there was already an investigation pending. I didn’t let him get to the part about company policy not allowing him to divulge the mis-delivery location. I butt in, “I am looking for a hero today. Please be a hero to a little bullied girl in Chicago. All I need is the street address, that’s it and we can hang up. I know it’s right there on the screen in front of you. Please, make a Thanksgiving Miracle.”
After a long silence, the new hero quickly and quietly said “215 Emerald Drive.” BINGO! He hung up like the phone was a hot potato – a hot potato of rogue compassion, let me tell you. I will never forget either of those rogue UPS heroes. I can still hear both their voices.
I called Traci immediately with the address. I could do that because I had been given the direct department number now, I say with pride. I had been allowed into “the inner workings” of Amazon. I was now being included on their email chain. I WAS IN and it was the most beautiful place! I had real names, real human phone numbers, and emails. It was an alternative universe of empathy from the Amazon on news reports.
We had 15 hours left before tomorrow's noon Friend Mail Presentation for Sydney! Traci and Wes’s shift ended and I was hooked up with their counterparts, Mae and Zhiguang, to continue the search overnight. Because nothing should ever be easy, it turns out that 215 Emerald Drive is a spot in the street basically in the middle of 2 humongous Amazon Fulfillment Centers, one on either side of the road. At least, the search was narrowed down to two. Amazon employees from Warehouse 4 and Warehouse 2 took over the physical search.
But, time was running out.
THE NEXT MORNING, Traci let me know that the package had still not been located. With just 4 hours before the surprise presentation, Stephanie and I began talking defeat… but we had one Hail Mary pass left in our playbook, and it was up to Stephanie to be the Quarterback. She got in her car and began the hour drive to 215 Emerald Drive to see what she could see. The Tempe, AZ, Relay Operations Center sent a "heads-up" email to the Warehouses to be on the lookout for Stephanie and, if the package is physically located by some miracle, they had permission to hand it over to this mom.
THEN, IT ALL HAPPENED AT ONCE!
UNSUNG HERO STORY
Traci sent me a picture of the package for verification, and Stephanie sent a picture of herself hefting the box into her car.
The noon presentation took place AS SCHEDULED on the parent’s live Facebook feed and inspired our thousands of letter-writers and educators across the country to keep "reaching out, speaking up and being a friend.”
We sent Honorary Ambassadors certificates to the Tempe and Joliet sites to people identified by their proud management, and wristbands and hats! I thought this adrenaline-packed but triumphant memory was the end of the story.
What I didn’t know yet is that it wasn’t over with the Amazon Relay Operations Center of Tempe, Arizona… Two weeks later, I received an email from their Supervisor, Chris Wong, about their Department’s Secret Santa surprise!!
Chris included a JPEG of the flyer they’d posted at the ROC...
My jaw was on the floor. I emailed our Board of Directors including the Chair, Lily Diaz-Withers, and Sydney's mom...
We cheered for the company leadership that gave its employees some autonomy to make kindness a priority and make a difference, even during a holiday time when we know the word “crazed” can’t adequately describe their day. In the midst of work, they took time to help a national anti-bullying, pro-empathy non-profit corporation help a mom help her bullied child to stay strong.
5th Grader Sydney received a package with over TWO DOZEN of the most heartfelt, beautiful letters of support from these beautiful souls of AMAZON ROC, TEMPE, ARIZONA!!
"I want you to stay strong and stay true to yourself. When you do this, you will most definitely find people who will like you for who you are. Don't change for anyone..."
We did... we found the heart of Amazon!! It is an inspirational empathic group of young people working diligently to get it done for the corporation, while being legendary anti-bullying heroes to children across the country.
A reminder about the UPS mis-delivery...“Mistakes are opportunities waiting to happen."
The thing is, these Amazon Relay Operations Center champions did not have to do ANYTHING. Nothing at all. The lost package was in no way their responsibility but they fixed the wrong anyway because it was the right thing to do. THEY STEPPED UP to bring the support of over a thousand UPstanders to a victim of bullying, and then, under the inspiration of their own fierce hearts, they brought their own... and expected nothing in return.
THE BE A FRIEND PROJECT, INC., CELEBRATES YOU, AMAZON ROC, TEMPE, ARIZONA!
Sydney and her dad reading Amazon ROC's letters of support!
449 LANE GATE ROAD, COLD SPRING, NY 10516
Co-President Jennifer Cell: 845-742-7112
The organization’s formal legal name is BE A FRIEND PROJECT, INC.
It is a not-for-profit 501c3 organization / Federal Tax ID # 84-2802576.
Any donation to the Be A Friend Project, Inc. is tax-deductible to the maximum extent allowed by law, thank you!