Named in honor of REI founders Lloyd and Mary Anderson, the Anderson Award celebrates our culture and recognizes outstanding employees. Winners demonstrate our values, help us succeed, foster great teams and customer experiences, and have fun while they’re at it.
This Anderson Award interview series highlights a group of 5-6 winners in their own words. Check back here weekly for more interviews as they are released. To learn more about the Anderson Prize, discover our coverage from 21st Anderson Award Event and read the full list of winners here. Congratulations to all!
Aaron Duartehe/she, Shipping/Receiving Manager, Grand Junction, CO
One of the most memorable experiences of my life was moving to Colorado. I’ve been here a little over 13 years and have lived in four different parts of the state. Living here has opened the door to multiple experiences and opportunities: running, mountain biking, snowboarding, floating down the river, drinking beer. I even had the opportunity to try cross-country skiing recently, which was challenging and fun. One of the benefits of living in Colorado is that the opportunities are endless. I would say that I never go anywhere without my mountain bike… but in truth, my trail riders more often end up riding with me. They are easy to carry and can get me out faster than most activities. But my real must-have? My friends. Friends can motivate and lift us up when we’re feeling down, help us see our strengths, and push us to achieve our goals. Every day, my friends inspire me to be a better person by showing me kindness, compassion and understanding. They also often inspire me to try new things and explore new ideas. My friends continually inspire me to grow, learn and be my best self.
Aaron Fosterhe/she, Sales Lead, Denver, CO
My favorite way to spend time outdoors is in the backcountry around Jones Pass, skiing with my son. Watching him grow and experience all the things I love and the things he discovers always makes me examine the journey of life. I have a group of friends that I have known for 25 years. We have been to the Lost Wonder Hut in the Sawatch chain together for several years in a row. Skiing in the Colorado backcountry – sharing time together, enjoying great food and scenery – was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I have a multitude of items that I bring on my adventures. The two things I always bring, however, are my own sense of adventure and an open mind to whatever may come my way. Being adaptable and open to new experiences are essential on every adventure. When it comes to work, I’ve been lucky that almost every day I work is a great day. Engage meaningfully with clients I see; share information and knowledge with colleagues; and leading my team are key elements of a great day at REI.
Churchill Abbeyshe/she, Sales Manager, Vernon Hills, IL
One of my most memorable outdoor experiences happened just before I graduated from college: I took a two-week geography course in South Africa. Two professors, three other students and I traveled in a small van from Cape Town, along the winding coast, through the Drakensberg Mountains and then on to Johannesburg to study the cultural and physical geography of the country. Closer to home, my favorite outdoor activity is camping. I feel most like myself when I can just relax and unwind in nature. One of my favorite camping trips was an overnight stay in Olympic National Park in Washington. This year I started the 52 Hike Challenge for the first time. I love how much it has allowed me to discover new places, especially during the winter months when I generally want to hibernate. It’s amazing how well you can tailor the challenge to your needs or those of your crew. I am also a member of Women Who Hike, solo female travel groups and social media influencers. Women and allies in these social groups empower me and encourage me to work towards creating safer spaces for women outdoors. At REI, I really enjoy giving lessons, especially those at the beginner level, because I have the opportunity to encourage and help clients prepare for their next (or sometimes first) trip. Whether you’re going with your family for the first time or going alone, it’s so important to feel welcome outside.
Ace Henrickshe/she, Retail Sales Specialist, Colorado Springs, CO
My biggest inspirations are my older sister, Hannah, and her partner, Adam. They helped me discover a love for the outdoors many years ago and they introduced me to the whole idea of the co-op. The way they responsibly enjoy the outdoors and have lived a very balanced life inspires me to do the same. For me, a good day at work is about helping guests achieve their outdoor goals during the kitting process, but it’s also when I still find time to enjoy the team vibe that REI cultivates. . I love the mix that each day brings – laughs and in-depth conversations with regular customers, but also interactions with people visiting us for the first time. When I’m not at work, I like to be anywhere I can get some fresh air, especially hiking in the Rockies near the Continental Divide. You will always find me with my Leatherman multitool which is used for daily walks and multi-day backpacks. One sport I’ve been surprised to enjoy recently is running, having had a very love/hate relationship with running in high school and college when I was playing ball sports, and when the racing was seen as a means to an end. In terms of best experiences, visiting Torres Del Paine in Chilean Patagonia with my partner during the summer equinox tops the list. The sun didn’t set until after 10 p.m.!
Adam Bernardinhe/she, Sales Lead, Boulder, CO
Here’s my vision of a great day at REI: I cycle to work on a warm, sunny day. Once there, there are enough people in the store for me to help all types of customers, big and small. I make meaningful connections throughout the day and help people get everything they need to feel fully equipped. I also teach them how to recreate safely so they have an amazing outdoor experience. The people are quite inspiring. My biggest inspiration is people with disabilities who overcome their challenges to achieve what others say they can’t. I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to give their all – to give their best every day, in every way – because some people can’t or aren’t as lucky as others. ‘others. It is therefore important to make the most of life, and also of your work, given the gifts and opportunities available to you. When I’m not at work, I like to do almost anything that gets me out. My favorite activity, however, is hiking/camping in Colorado with my dog and anyone who wants to join in. My pocket knife always comes with me; it has a thousand uses. However, perhaps my most memorable outdoor experience was climbing Mount Rainier in Washington with my older brother.
Aletha Meadeshe/she, PA Receiving Clerk-D, Distribution Center – PA
My default way to hang out is to walk around the nearby Penn State University campus. I like to watch the fish and ducks swim in the pond and see the turtles popping up from time to time. I also like a good book, with a reading lamp. Reading appeals to me because I love how much my mind engages with the world I’m reading about at the time. A good book allows you to use your imagination and temporarily escape everyday worries. I’m also a big fan of reading while drinking ceremonial-grade matcha tea; I love tea. But my greatest source of inspiration is THE Good book—the Bible. It’s my source of comfort and wisdom, especially if I’m feeling down. I truly believe this is the source book of life. There were a few other major influences and moments in my life. One was joining the US Army. Another was the birth of my daughters. When I think about work, I think about how essential teamwork is to our success. I love to see it when my co-workers and I form a team to support each other to help any area of front desk service that may be struggling that day.