Guest Blog: Ed Breitweiser, Navy Veteran and Repair Corps Grant Recipient
I am one of the veterans whose house and life have been greatly improved by Habitat for Humanity and The Home Depot Foundation. I can hardly find the words to express how grateful I am that a Habitat Repair Corps team, including Team Depot volunteers, came to the home my wife and I have lived in for 23 years in Lake in the Hills, Illinois, and fixed problems that helped us feel better and save money at the same time.
I’m almost 70, with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). My wife and I depend on my Social Security check as income; and after paying bills I have not had the money to keep up with the routine maintenance as I wanted to do.
When the nine-member team of volunteers came to the house, I thought they were responding to my request to repair a leak in the bathroom wall. They tore out that wall, fixed the leak, replaced the worn-out tiles and built a surround – making the bathroom look beautiful. But much to my delight, they took a look around the house and decided to do so much more.
For starters, they insulated the attic and the ceiling over the garage so that the room above it could hold heat. That room used to be so cold; it’s warm as toast now. With those steps, my monthly energy bills went down by $50 or $60 dollars in the winter. That’s a very significant savings for me.
Next, they noticed that my roof was deteriorating and my gutters were so bad, water just laid in them. I live in a raised ranch house, and I am on oxygen 24-7, so I’m in no condition to get up on the ladder. The team replaced the roof and gutters. Without the work Habitat and The Home Depot took on, my roof and gutters would have caused me serious problems.
Finally, the team cleaned and repaired the concrete steps outside, greatly improving the look and safety of the entrance to our home.
So many veterans are better off because of the grants The Home Depot Foundation gives to Habitat for Humanity to help veterans. My wife Jeanie and I are just overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude.
- Navy veteran Ed Breitweiser
In 2012, Habitat for Humanity International and The Home Depot Foundation® announced the national expansion of the Repair Corps Program, a joint initiative to remodel and renovate homes across the country for U.S. military veterans and their families. With $2.7 million in funding from The Home Depot Foundation and volunteer assistance from Team Depot, The Home Depot’s associate-led volunteer force, Habitat’s expanded Repair Corps Program is repairing the homes of more than 180 veterans and their families.
During the opening ceremony of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) conference last week in Washington, D.C., Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki ,referencing the decline in veterans homeless by nearly one-fifth in five years, said, “ We have made a difference…we know we can do this. In a couple of years, we’ll be able to look back and say that we took every homeless veteran off the street.”
We couldn’t agree more with his sentiments, but we know that there is still plenty of work left to do to meet the White House and VA’s goal of ending veterans’ homelessness throughout the country by the end of 2015.
We also know that veteran homelessness cannot be solved by one entity – it takes all of us working collaboratively to find viable solutions to house our heroes and protect them the way they selflessly have protected us.
That’s why the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans is so important. After just one week with NCHV member organizations, we are even more encouraged that together we can meet these ambitious goals. The dedication, collaboration and accomplishments we’ve seen by these organizations in the veterans’ housing sector are remarkable and we are proud to be a part of the effort.
We thank all of our partners for their ongoing work and commitment. Together we will work to ensure every veteran has a safe place to call home.
We are saddened by the devastation over the last few weeks. In response to the needs after the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and throughout the Southwest United States, the Foundation is creating a $1 million fund for the relief and recovery efforts.
We’re beginning our efforts by providing the following financial support and donation of supplies:
- Team Rubicon – The Foundation continued its partnership with Team Rubicon, the disaster relief organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with medical professionals to rapidly deploy emergency response teams into crisis situations. The Foundation is donating $100,000 to Team Rubicon for clean-up and rebuilding efforts in the affected area.
- American Red Cross – $250,000 for immediate disaster relief supplies and activities. This donation is in addition to the Foundation’s annual gift of $500,000 to the Red Cross’ disaster giving program, bringing the company’s total 2013 commitment to $750,000.
- Operation Homefront – $60,000 to assist with relief efforts for veterans living near Tinker Air Force Base
- Operation Blessing – $100,000 to sustain the disaster response efforts for their first responders, clean-up and long term recovery.
- Convoy of Hope – $100,000 to continue their volunteer-driven clean-up response and long term efforts.
- Store donations to local nonprofit and government organizations, including the Red Cross, Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, Del City Fire Department, Bethany Fire Department, Moore Police Department, Moore Fire Department
- The Homer Fund, a charity for The Home Depot associates in need of emergency financial assistance, has begun helping associates and their families affected by these storms.
On May 28, more than 250 Home Depot volunteers from Moore, OK, Dallas, TX, Fort Worth, TX, and Tulsa, OK joined Operation Blessing and Team Rubicon to assist with disaster relief efforts in response to the tornado that devastated Moore on May 20. Volunteers spent the day cleaning up, sorting and moving debris for residents that were impacted.
We will continually update this list as the relief and recovery efforts continue.
Click here to learn more about our $1 million commitment to tornado relief and recovery effort.
After two years, Aprons in Action is coming to an end – but it’s not over yet and you can help! Launched in Spring 2011, Aprons in Action, our monthly Facebook voting program, has provided the public with the opportunity to help the Foundation distribute more than $2 million to 88 local nonprofit organizations.
Since its launch, the Aprons in Action program has been a successful and fun component of our giving programs. By activating our social network of support, Aprons in Action has provided us the opportunity to not only invest in our nonprofit partners, but also highlight the great work that our associates do in communities across the country.
As part of the program, each month, four nonprofits compete for votes on Facebook to win a $25,000 Home Depot gift card to complete a renovation project with their Team Depot partners. In true Home Depot spirit, no organization goes home empty handed. The three runners up win a $5,000 Home Depot gift card. Each year culminates with a grand prize competition where the 11 monthly winners compete for a total of $500,000 ($250,000, $150,000 and $100,000 respectively.)
We’re excited to be half way through our second and final grand prize competition. Right now, the following organizations and partner stores are competing for the grand prize:
- Volunteers of America Greater Ohio & Store #6954 (Columbus, OH)
- Stiggy’s Dogs & Store #2751 (Howell, MI)
- AMVETS Post 44 & Store #3805 (Struthers, OH)
- Michigan Veterans Foundation & Store #2718 (Detroit, MI)
- Low Income Housing Institute & Store #4703 (Seattle, WA)
- VFW Post 2777 & District #244 (Burton, MI)
- The 313 Project & Districts #033, #194, #218, #243, and #245 & (Detroit, MI)
- Grand Rapids Home for Veterans & District #275 (Grand Rapids, MI)
- Active Heroes & Stores #2305, #2301, #2313, #2002, #2307, #2016, #2302, #2316, #2021 (Louisville, KY)
- Saratoga County RPC – VETHELP & District #16 (Ballston Spa, NY)
“During Aprons in Action, we have the privilege of working with veterans organizations to elevate awareness of the work they do and award them with funds to continue their efforts,” said Kelly Caffarelli, president of The Home Depot Foundation. “When the May contest finale concludes, The Home Depot Foundation will complete its goal of donating $2 million to 88 deserving nonprofits to help them continue their service to support our country’s veterans.”
To learn more about this year’s competing nonprofits and vote for the FINAL grand prize winner of Aprons in Action, log on to apps.facebook.com/apronsinaction!
The Spring season is a busy one for us at The Home Depot Foundation. Not only is Team Depot Springing into Service by providing spring updates and renovations for veterans and their families, but our vendor partners have also joined us for the first three annual Community Building Invitationals.
The Community Building Invitationals, our annual fundraisers, are always a sight to be seen. Hundreds of orange blooded vendors join with us to donate their time and talent to help our nonprofit partners.
On April 24, in partnership with Volunteers of America, the nearly 200 person orange army assembled at the American Legion Post 29 in Miami, FL ready to complete a large exterior and interior renovation and garden project. In just one day, volunteers landscaped the front and back of the building, painted the front of the building, renovated the entryway, re-floored the auditorium, repaved the parking lot and built a new gazebo in the rear of the facility.
American Legion members not only enjoyed working with us, they were extremely grateful for the work being done. One veteran told a volunteer, “I have not felt this appreciated since I came home from the Vietnam War. Thank you for caring for our veterans.”
We are continually inspired by the generosity of our vendor partners and associates. Their numerous contributions are essential to our ability to accomplish our mission to ensure that every veteran has a safe place to call home.
“It’s truly inspiring to see the commitment and care our associates and vendor volunteer show our veterans and partner organizations,” said Heather Pritchard, National Grants Manager. “The work they complete in just one day creates a lifetime of impact those who have served us all.”
For more information on The Home Depot Foundation’s commitment to veterans, click here.
When one member joins, the whole family serves.” There is no statement more true for the mostly women and a few good men that we’ve met at the Military.com Spouse Summit in D.C. last week. This strong group of military spouses, caregivers and advocates are truly inspiring —true heroes.
As a husband/wife or parent of active military, juggling deployments, cross-country moves and, many times, children and grandchildren, it is safe to say these folks have taken on more than many of their peers. We recognize that being left behind to handle children, a job and a house is no easy task. Then, having the constant worry and stress of being separated from your family member, makes it a seemingly impossible task.
But, we know that tens of thousands of people are doing it every day and luckily, there are people who deeply care about making it not only possible, but a little easier, too. We were extremely honored to meet many of those people and organizations at this summit.
We think that we can certainly play an important role in this effort…that part of our work at The Home Depot Foundation is to make sure people don’t forget those who are currently serving, those who have served in the past, and the families that serve with them. As we move forward from this event, we leave strengthened and empowered to continue to ensure that every veteran…and his/her family…has a safe place to call home.
I recently attended the National League of Cities (NLC) 2013 Congressional City Conference in Washington, DC. While there, I heard elected officials speak of issues they face in their cities – large cities trended toward transportation and smaller cities spoke of growth and business retention. What all cities, large and small, have in common are issues facing veterans.
No matter the size of your city, we are seeing common challenges for veterans across the country. The issues veterans are facing today include permanent housing, employment, and health issues. The challenges and gaps in services include access to permanent supportive housing; outreach to veterans living in rural areas; serving the housing needs of female veterans; reducing the amount of time it takes to place a veteran who is homeless into stable housing; and access to employment.
National League of Cities saw the importance of giving our military communities a voice and created a Military Communities Council. The Council is a space for elected officials to come together and discuss issues facing current military and veterans and find solutions that will help veterans thrive in their community. They focus on many veteran and military family issues around providing jobs, housing, education and health care. The network has also provided an excellent channel and connection for the veteran housing work NLC is currently doing in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation
The Home Depot Foundation is working in partnership with NLC to create awareness among our elected officials through educating them on the issues facing veterans and establishing a strong network of partners providing direct services to veterans. Veteran homelessness cannot be solved by one entity – it takes all of us working collaboratively to find viable solutions to house our heroes and protect them the way they selflessly have protected us.
We thank our partners for their ongoing work and commitment. Together we will ensure every veteran has a safe place to call home.
- Heather Pritchard, Manager of National Partnerships, The Home Depot Foundation
Beryle Stipe shared her experiences as Soldier and now as the Executive Assistant to the President of Home Depot’s Southern Division with 100 attendees at the Army Women’s Foundation symposium about transitioning to civilian life on March 12.
Speaking at the Capitol Hill event entitled, “Refocusing Your Future,” she said what helped in her transition from the Army was understanding, “We have leadership skills that we take with us.” After more than eight years as a Soldier, she re-oriented her priorities to be a better parent.
“I needed to make sure my son felt safe,” Stipe said as part of a panel on looking to civilian careers, but leaving the military “took me out of my comfort zone” of having some career decisions made for her. What she discovered was, “I could create my own action plan.
Before she joined Home Depot in 2004, she said, “I tore up my resume 50 different times” in her search for a veteran-friendly company to work for.
“Home Depot is much like the military” in that, among other things, it “believes in the team dynamic.” Stipe said the company employs 35,000 veterans and 1,500 service members who are on active duty at any given time. Easing veterans into Home Depot’s workforce are programs like “I Care” which offer counseling for employees. “All very private,” she said. The company also has a military affinity organization allowing veterans “to get together and talk” in a social setting.
She made particular mention of the Home Depot Foundation’s work in assisting veterans with their housing needs. The Home Depot Foundation was a leading sponsor of the symposium and Hall of Fame luncheon.
Fred Wacker, Chief Operating Officer of The Home Depot Foundation, said that the foundation’s mission is to ensure “Every veteran has a safe place to call home.” It is putting $80 million over five years to support these efforts and not-for-profit organizations that repair and rehabilitate housing for veterans and their families.
“We couldn’t do that without our service providers,” Wacker said.
In introducing the Hall of Fame portion of the program, Wacker said those being honored–Gen. Ann Dunwoody, USA, Ret., the first female four-star general; the Army nurses who served in the Korean War; and the first female command sergeant major, Yzetta Nelson and first female sergeant major, Carolyn Jones–“are some pretty amazing women” deserving of their induction into the AWF’s Hall of Fame.
One of the first Hall of Fame inductees was Brig. Gen. “Pat” Foote, USA, Ret. Speaking to ScoutComms, she said events such as the symposium and luncheon, now in their fifth year, were important in showing “corporate America and political America the skills that Army women have.”
“The job market is so tight,” so emphasizing the special qualities and skills military experience can bring to a job, from time management to leadership, is important. She was particularly proud of the Army Women’s Foundation being able to offer 29 scholarships this year up from 15 last year.
“Education, the symposium work so well for us, I hope this goes on forever,” Foote said.
“We must make sure that our vets know that there are opportunities for them in the public and private sector,” Stipe said.
- John Grady, ScoutComms
Click here to visit ScoutComms Blog.
Just last week, The New York Times featured an article on the growing challenges for female veterans as they transition back into civilian life. It was a good reminder of the oftentimes forgotten mental and physical effects of war that remain with female military members long after their service is over.
According to the article, “returning servicewomen are facing a battlefield of a different kind: they are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, an often-invisible group bouncing between sofa and air mattress, overnighting in public storage lockers, living in cars and learning to park inconspicuously on the outskirts of shopping centers to avoid the violence of the streets.”
What makes all of this worse: one-third of homeless female veterans live with their minor children, making it difficult to find transitional housing. That’s why The Home Depot Foundation has taken a special interest in this issue.
We are partnering with organizations such as U.S.VETS and Volunteers of America and activating Team Depot, our associate volunteer corps, to provide safe and comfortable homes for these veterans who have sacrificed so much to serve our country.
One project we are particularly excited about is in partnership with U.S.VETS in Long Beach, California. Together we will help renovate a former naval housing site into transitional housing and supportive services for female veterans and their families.
Also, just a couple months ago, Team Depot transformed the home of Tonja Millberry, a veteran, mother of two and cancer survivor. The renovation of her living area, bathroom and flooring not only removed a long-term financial burden, but also increased the family’s overall morale.
As we move forward in our efforts, we know that we all must continue to work together and leverage our resources to improve housing conditions for female veterans and their families. It’s the right thing to do and a challenge we gladly accept.
At The Home Depot Foundation, we understand the impact of hard work and sweat equity. We live it every day through Team Depot. We also understand the value of neighbors giving up their time, rolling up their shirtsleeves and getting dirty to improve their community. Each year, we support these special neighborhood efforts through our Community Impact Grants.
From now through August 13, nonprofit organizations that are interested in using volunteers to help improve their community for veterans and their families can apply for a grant up to $5,000, provided in Home Depot gift cards, to purchase tools, materials or services from The Home Depot.
See what our 2012 Community Impact Grant recipients are saying:
Liberty Manor for Veterans – Tampa, FL
“On behalf of the veterans at Liberty Manor, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to you for the benevolent donation that you made to our honorably discharged veterans. Your efforts certainly merit a Certificate of Appreciation and we are proud to recognize you for your generosity. These are former soldiers who have served our country, fought for our independence, and today, fallen victim to homelessness. This initiative offers us the grand opportunity to pay homage in a significant way. All contributions made to the Liberty Manor initiative are sure to be enjoyed for years to come as we are investing in a soldiers future.”
Arizona Art Alliance – Phoenix, AZ
“Thank you again for support of our new Veteran Outreach Program. Since our Ribbon Cutting Event, we have been asked by several organizations to help honor our veterans including the city of Phoenix by displaying veterans art around the community and in City Hall. Much of this notoriety is due to your grant, making it possible to provide a large classroom for purposes of applying the healing qualities of art to veterans. We are grateful to The Home Depot Foundation team for their generosity and supporting our veterans.”
Easter Seals New Hampsire – Manchester, NH
“On behalf of Easter Seals NH, thank you for the generous award in Home Depot gift cards to help us provide veterans vital home repair and weatherization services. This gift came at a critical time as veterans were preparing for winter weather. Military families often have emergencies that occur before or during employment and that leave their spouses to deal with them alone. The Home Depot Foundation’s support assisted in providing a quick resolution to the critical housing needs faced by service members, such as plumbing and roof repairs, winterization of homes, flood damage clean up, and repairs of snow blowers.”
Join us and help create a safe, comfortable and stable community where veterans can succeed. To apply for a 2013 Community Impact Grant now, click here.