In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we would like to share how The Home Depot Manhattan West 23rd Street Store #6175 gave thanks to veterans in an extra special way this Veterans Day. Spearheaded by all-star Team Depot Captain Al Manigault, the entire city took part in what associates called an “Appreciation of our U.S. Veterans” ceremony.
The event, which celebrated and honored all U.S. veterans, took place in Store #6175 and was open to all customers and the community. Veterans were invited through many organizations like the Blinded Veterans Association, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Disabled Veterans Association, Harlem Vet Center and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Veterans of all ages were present, including those who served during the Korean War, Gulf War, Vietnam War, War in Afghanistan and World War II. Even some of the prestigious Tuskegee Airmen attended.
The day began with a musical performance for the veterans in attendance by children from P.S. 28 Mount Hope. Activities included a Home Depot job fair and every veteran in attendance received a gift bag thanks to multiple vendor partners. Several speakers were also on site to express their gratitude to our veterans including Dr. Walter Bridgers (Director of Harlem Vet Center), Eric Glaude, LCSW (Counselor, Specializing in Veterans Affairs at Borough of Manhattan Community College), Dr. Marcella Maxwell (NAACP) and The Home Depot District Leadership Team.
A very special guest speaker, Congressman Charles B. Rangel (U.S. Representative for New York’s 13th congressional district), was there to make closing remarks. Congressmen Rangel is a Korean War veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor.
“The ‘Appreciation of our U.S. Veterans’ ceremony was a day of excitement, inspiring stories of courage, remembrance, hugs and tears, and soldiers seeing each other for the first time in a long time,” said Team Depot Captain of Store #6175 Al Manigault. “Many of the veterans were thanking The Home Depot but we wanted them to understand that this day was not about them thanking us – it was about us thanking them. All too often, our veterans feel underappreciated. This is why we wanted to express and show them that we honor, respect and applaud their sacrifice and all they have done to protect this country.”
As we prepare for the upcoming holiday, The Home Depot Foundation is thankful for the associates of Store #6175 under the leadership of Team Depot Captain Al Manigault, all of the speakers who recognized those in attendance at this event and, most importantly, these and all veterans who have so bravely served our country.
Many Americans do not recognize that nearly 60,000 veterans are homeless. After bravely serving our country, many of them return without a place to live. We think this is unacceptable, but it will take a lot of us to reverse this trend. That is why, together with National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), we are asking all Americans to sign a statement to recognize there are homeless veterans, to tell others about the problem and to commit to becoming a part of the solution.
This commitment is part of NAEH’s Never Another Homeless Veteran campaign, a two-year effort to raise awareness and build support for ending veteran homelessness. With our five-year, $80 million commitment to ensuring every veteran has a safe place to call home, we believe strongly in this initiative.
The Home Depot associates are no stranger to this cause either. We have 35,000 veterans among our 300,000+ associates, and they are working with us to address veterans’ housing needs. They volunteer their time and talents year round to complete volunteer projects benefitting veterans across the country.
Beyond that, we are proud to say that more 4,500 of our associates have already signed the Never Another Homeless Veteran commitment statement. So as we continue to do our part to ensure that every veteran has a safe place to call home with NAEH and our many other nonprofit partners, we ask that you do your part too.
You may volunteer at a VA hospital or an American Legion post. You may give to a nonprofit that serves veterans. But you can get involved right now. We ask you to add your name to show you understand this problem and care about our veterans.
Sign the Never Another Homeless Veteran statement here.
By: Elisha Harig-Blaine, National League of Cities
This post is also on citiesspeak.org the official blog of the National League of Cities.
Last week in Seattle, the National League of Cities held it’s annual Congress of Cities and Exposition. More than 3,500 participants gathered to learn about the dynamic ways cities are driving change and finding solutions to the most pressing challenges facing local government. Among these challenges is the issue of homelessness, especially the disgrace of veteran homelessness. At multiple points over the conference, local leaders came together to discuss what is happening in their cities, hear from colleagues and others about the progress being made to ensure all veterans have a place to call home.
Of particular note, is the recent announcement by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker that his community is on pace to end chronic veteran homelessness in the coming months. Before the Large Cities Council and during a Veteran Homelessness Roundtable, Mayor Becker discussed the collaborative efforts being made between the city, non-profits, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and others to identify homeless veterans and ensure they receive the services that can best meet their needs.
During the Roundtable, participants also heard from Vince Kane of the VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans. Mr. Kane outlined resources available to end veteran homelessness, including HUD-VA Supportive Housing vouchers (HUD-VASH) and the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program (SSVF). In addition, Mr. Kane spoke about a new 25 Cities Initiative that will soon be underway to bring the communities in line with the national goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.
Joining Mr. Kane at the Roundtable was Becky Kanis, Director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign. Ms. Kanis spoke about key strategies that communities are using to place homeless veterans in housing. These strategies include knowing homeless veterans by name, utilizing a vulnerability index to prioritize people for housing based on their likelihood of dying on the street, identifying duplicative processes, building community consensus around housing first models and leveraging Medicaid and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) resources in support of veterans and the chronically homeless.
Fred Wacker, Chief Operating Officer of The Home Depot Foundation, was another roundtable speaker. Mr. Wacker discussed the Foundation’s continued commitment to support the construction and rehabilitation of housing for veterans. The Foundation’s on-going efforts were also discussed at the meeting of NLC’s Military Communities Council.
In another conference session regarding successful reintegration of veterans, attendees heard from Tacoma, WA Mayor Marilyn Strickland. Mayor Strickland spoke about the city’s support of collaborative efforts between the local VA office and medical center with local non-profits and the State of Washington’s Department of Veteran Services. City actions included inserting a preference for veterans in a recent round of funding for multifamily housing rehabilitation projects and partnering with county and state officials to encourage the Washington State Housing Finance Commission to collect data on veterans being served by projects receiving allocations of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs).
In addition to these events, conference attendees helped assemble hundreds of personal care kits to be sent to service men and women as a part of NLC’s on-going partnership with Good360. Also, NLC members involved with the Women in Municipal Government constituency group and the Community and Economic Development Policy Committee received an update about on-going work related to veteran homelessness.
With the federal government’s goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015 approaching, the leadership of local elected officials is more important than ever. In a growing number of cities, local leaders are joining with non-profits, businesses, philanthropies, faith communities, and state and federal partners to end what was once thought to be an unsolvable problem. The efforts to build collaborative relationships are a lasting way to honor our veterans and strengthen cities for all community members.
For more information about how cities are helping ensure all veterans have a place to call home and how NLC can support local efforts, contact Elisha Harig-Blaine at email@example.com or visit www.nlc.org/veteranhousing.
What started as an average Sunday turned into anything but as news alerts rolled in with reports of dozens of tornadoes touching down in the Midwest. Today, as thousands of affected residents look to pick up the pieces left behind, our hearts are with them.
When disaster strikes, we know that communities count on us as a major partner to help recover and rebuild their homes and neighborhoods. Both today and in the coming months, we are committed to helping our neighbors in the Midwest. Today, we are donating $50,000 to Team Rubicon to provide their volunteers with the supplies they need for their immediate response efforts.
Team Rubicon, one of our national partners, unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. We value our partnership with Team Rubicon, which is also providing their volunteers with necessary supplies for relief efforts in Austin and Alaska.
Our stores throughout the impacted Midwest areas are providing resources to emergency management agencies and first responders so that they can respond quickly to needs of the victims.
Additionally, our support of the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program will be used to support their effort to provide immediate relief to the impacted areas. For those interested in making a donation to Red Cross, please visit redcross.org/homedepot-pub.
When initial damage assessments have been made and the area is safe, Team Depot, the Company’s associate-led volunteer force, will mobilize locally to help with relief and recovery efforts as well.
By: Kelly Caffarelli, President of The Home Depot Foundation
I’ve heard people say you can do anything for a day, a month, a year. At The Home Depot Foundation, not only can we do anything for two months, we can do a lot! From September 11 through November 11, thousands of our associates worked across the country on volunteer projects benefiting veterans. The grand finale was in St. Louis on Veterans Day, when we had 300 associates repairing, painting and planting at the homes of 28 veterans.
This was our third annual two-month Celebration of Service campaign and we set the bar high for next year with associates volunteering more than 100,000 hours to complete more than 350 projects hitting all 50 states. This year’s projects were supported with a $3 million investment and were particularly meaningful as we focused many projects on improving the homes of two specific groups: women veterans and caregivers.
As shocking as it sounds, 60,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and the fastest growing group in the homeless population is women veterans, many of whom have children. Most places providing housing assistance are not able to take families, making it difficult for veterans who are mothers to find a safe home for their families. Similarly, there’s a new group of caregivers, who are often young spouses and parents, providing help to some of the 3.5 million veterans living with a service-related disability.
Anything we do to make homes more comfortable and accessible for disabled veterans, probably also makes it easier for the caregivers, who are dedicating themselves to care for veterans every day.
Some examples of the kinds of projects Team Depot, our associate-led volunteer force completed include:
• Making the home of Anna Fields, a 98-year-old WWII veteran and Cincinnati, OH resident, handicapped accessible (with People Working Cooperatively)
• Making the home of Army veteran Jammie Hinson, his wife, Katina (a caregiver and Air Force veteran), and their two children accessible for Jammie (with Rebuilding Together Dallas)
• Renovating and beautifying an outdoor area at a permanent housing facility for veterans and their families in San Francisco (with Swords to Plowshares)
• Remodeling Hello House, a transitional housing facility that serves homeless women veterans in Boston (with Volunteers of America Massachusetts)
While Celebration of Service ended on Veterans Day, our efforts to ensure every veteran has a safe place to call home continue year-round. It’s all part of our $80 million, five-year commitment to address the housing needs of our country’s veterans. We know that Veterans Day is only once a year, but we’ve taken on this work as our way of saying “thank you” to our veterans every day of the year.
To continue following what The Home Depot Foundation is up to as we address veterans’ housing needs and more, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @homedepotfdn or using #TeamDepot and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/homedepotfoundation.
As the Field Specialist for the Southern Division, each week I have the pleasure of working with dozens of associates to mobilize hundreds of volunteers for Team Depot volunteer projects. Each project is important and special – whether it involves giving a veteran’s home a fresh look, building a ramp for better accessibility or honoring the sacrifices veterans have made by building memorial paths. Last week, I had the opportunity to join Team Depot for a project at the Five Star Veterans Center in Jacksonville, Florida as part of our 3rd Annual Celebration of Service. Five Star Veterans Center is a modest organization that provides high-quality transitional housing for homeless veterans who need assistance as they take on the challenge of adjusting to civilian life.
After an early morning cup of coffee, a few logistical directions for the team and an enthusiastic Home Depot cheer, we were off and running. Looking around at the dozens of volunteers rolling up their sleeves to help renovate this center for people they barely knew, I was reminded of what I really admire about the Team Depot program– the people.
Team Depot is made up of Home Depot associates committed to doing the right thing for any number of reasons. Some do it because it’s fun and they enjoy the camaraderie of doing something together; some do it because it makes someone’s life a little easier; and others use it as a way to recognize and honor our nation’s veterans. Others, like Mike Curry, volunteer as a way to return the favor.
I had the privilege of meeting Mike, a Home Depot associate and veteran in Jacksonville. His motivation to participate is special. Mike chose to give back because the work of Five Star Veterans Center is close to his heart; he was once homeless. After some unforeseeable circumstances, Mike lost stable employment and then lost his home. Through hard work and a few helping hands, he found a job at The Home Depot and secured a place to call home. And now he’s sharing his story, his home improvement talents and his optimistic attitude in helping others on their journey.
Mike was honored to join in this mission to help his fellow service members. “I had the opportunity to serve with The Home Depot Foundation in an on-going project to help renovate a homeless veterans’ shelter. The experience was particularly rewarding to me, considering I too am a formerly homeless veteran. I was able to talk with the vets, tell them my story and hopefully inspire. All in all it was a very rewarding day.”
I’m not sure I was the one Mike meant to inspire last week but I’m inspired by Mike. Inspired to continue our work to ensure every veteran gets safely home and reminded of the simple power of a safe place.
- Valerie Cox, Foundation Field Specialists – Southern Division, The Home Depot Foundation
I’ve participated in countless Team Depot projects to help veterans in my role as The Home Depot Foundation Field Manager. While it is always a rewarding experience, we completed a project in Tampa recently that was so meaningful that the pictures just cannot do it justice.
With this project, our Team Depot volunteers transformed a drab space into an outdoor inspiration for wounded warriors adjusting to their new lives with spinal cord injuries. The project was in partnership with the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and the USO, to create an outdoor space for this 100-bed top notch Spinal Cord and Rehabilitation Center that serves veterans who have been severely injured in the line of duty.
Team Depot’s plan was to create a meaningful outdoor space attached to the Spinal Cord Injury Recreational Therapy room. The current space began with an automatic sliding glass door that opened to a 6′ long concrete walkway…that was it. Beyond the walkway was an inaccessible ground fraught with rocks and dirt that served no purpose.
To Team Depot, this was a blank canvas. After working with a community partner to pour a large concrete pad, Team Depot installed a vibrant landscape with trees, potted plants and benches. This may not seem like much but this is actually where the story gets good.
During the project, we received word that a group of veterans going through recreational therapy were supposed to have a horticulture class that day. Veterans were going to be in front of computers while someone lectured about horticulture. While I’m sure it would have been interesting – one of our volunteers just so happened to be a The Home Depot garden expert. So we decided to change the curriculum.
At the center of the entire project was a round garden bed. We decided to leave it unplanted so the veterans scheduled to participate in the horticulture class could actually get their hands dirty to learn about real plants instead of viewing them online. Our garden associate led an hour-long class educating the veterans about various facets of horticulture. Then, she worked with each veteran to help them plant their plant in the garden bed to formally finish off the project.
Afterwards I spoke with one of the veterans about the class and how we may be of help going forward. What he said truly struck a chord with me, “Every day we wake up and go to work (that’s what we call therapy), each day is a scheduled with classes and therapy to move us one step closer to self-sufficiency. Some of us may never be able to walk again, but only the doctors believe that. Day in and day out, we rarely get to see new things, we rarely get to be a part of new things. However, because of this garden area, every day during therapy we can see the seasons change the plants, we can even watch the colors form and change. For me, I’m glad I get to watch my plant grow, change, live and serve.”
By: Joe Wimberley, The Home Depot Foundation Field Manager, Southern Division
At The Home Depot Foundation, we are working daily toward our mission to ensure every veteran has a safe place to call home. But we also recognize, that housing is just one of the many challenges that veterans face when they complete their service – and there are many hidden heroes out there providing care to veterans in need.
Caregivers for our nation’s veterans often face unexpected challenges as they care for loved ones with physical and emotional scars. We have partnered with The Elizabeth Dole Foundation to support veteran caregivers.
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation works directly with caregivers across the country through its Caregiver Fellows Program to raise awareness and resources for America’s hidden heroes. This month, the Foundation announced that the Fellows program is seeking to welcome 20 additional caregivers over the next several months.
If you know someone who is currently caring for a wounded warrior or veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he or she might qualify to become a Fellow. Individuals new to caregiving as well as those who have dedicated themselves to this calling for some time are welcome to apply. Fellows will play a critical role in the Foundation’s efforts to lay the groundwork for a national strategy to support military and caregivers.
You can learn more about The Elizabeth Dole Foundation and how to apply for the program online at http://elizabethdolefoundation.org/.
On September 5, we launched our 3rd Annual Celebration of Service. Since the launch, Team Depot volunteers have participated in nearly 100 projects benefiting veterans, caregivers and their families. Below is a first-person report from volunteer Chris Giallanza, who participated in his first Celebration of Service project on September 19th in Cincinnati.
The only thing more impressive than Team Depot’s accomplishments in a single day are those of the veterans we help, which was once again made clear on a rainy September day in Cincinnati.
As a first-time participant in a Celebration of Service project, I was overwhelmed by the dedication and genuine enthusiasm of the local Team Depot volunteers even before we dispersed to simultaneously take on 10 projects for local veterans throughout the metropolitan area.
My concerns after watching the local weather forecast must have shown through on my face as I joined the group of volunteers gathering in front of Pleasant Ridge store #3832.
“Oh, don’t worry. We work in the rain,” reassured one Team Depot volunteer.
That was an understatement.
I accompanied a group of 30 or so to the home of Anna Fields, a WWII veteran who served as a nurse in one of the country’s first African-American nurse companies – tending to soon-to-be amputees wounded in the European Theater.
By the time the sun made its first appearance later that morning, every single volunteer had already made significant headway on a variety of projects around the house, including a group of The Home Depot executives from Atlanta who quickly proved they came to work every bit as hard, if not harder, than the rest of us.
From refreshing nearly all of the front porch to a substantial renovation in the back of the house, volunteers stopped only to visit with Anna, fighting back tears as she and her family expressed their profound gratitude for Team Depot’s “drop everything and help” attitude.
“My orange angels,” Anna repeated throughout the day.
Throughout the day, local reporter after local reporter sat with Anna to hear her story, entranced by her charm and incredible stories from her 98 years of life.
Only as the projects neared completion did I have the chance to step back and take in all that Team Depot had done in a single day. Anna’s home looked brand new, and her family’s hope was restored. Their hero and role model would be able to stay in her home for her remaining years.
While several volunteers came together to put the finishing touches on a front-yard light post, emotions ran high as Paula Fields, Anna’s youngest daughter and full-time caretaker, boomed her gratitude with a contagious enthusiasm she undoubtedly got from her mother.
The Team Depot volunteers gathered briefly to reflect on the day’s accomplishments with confidence the other nine projects went just as well. And with exhausted smiles and teary eyes, we wished the Fields’ our best and went on our way – anxious for the next project in support of Cincinnati’s local veterans.
- Chris Giallanza
Did you know…? 22 million veterans live in the U.S., 3.5 million veterans have suffered service-connected disabilities, and 40 percent of veterans are over the age of 65.
Many of the veterans that make up the statistics above need accessibility modifications to live comfortably and safely in their homes – and many are unable to make these needed repairs without assistance. As a result, our veterans are not the only ones suffering, but their families and caregivers as well.
Statistics also show that the fastest growing group within the veteran community is women. Unfortunately, women veterans are also the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, and are twice as likely to be homeless as their civilian counterparts.
To address the particular housing needs of women veterans, caretakers and their families, we are proud to announce our third annual Celebration of Service. From 9/11 to Veterans Day, the Foundation will invest $3 million, and thousands of Home Depot associates across the country will complete 350 service projects.
Today, in Los Angeles, we kick off the campaign in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Greater L.A. and Volunteers of America Support for Harbor Area Women (SHAWL) program. In just one day, more than 150 Team Depot volunteers will transform the home of single mother and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Lidia Perez and the Haviland House, an emergency transitional home that will serve women veterans.
Lidia Perez, a Navy veteran, is the mother of two young boys. Seven family members live in her three-bedroom home, including Lidia and her sons, her mother, two adult sisters and young niece. Volunteers will partner with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles to complete a variety of projects to improve Lidia’s home, including:
- Painting the exterior and interior of the home
- Installing carpet in the bedrooms
- Performing minor plumbing repairs
- Landscaping and installing fencing in the front and backyard to give the children a safe play area
VOA’s SHAWL (Supporting Harbor Area Women’s Lives) is a residential recovery program for homeless women who are affected by drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and emotional abuse, many of whom are veterans. Project work will include:
- Painting and repairing the exterior of the home
- Reinforcing the front porch
- Repairing the sprinkler systems
- Landscaping in the front and backyard for shade and privacy
- Creating an outdoor area with a porch and BBQ
- Installing new fences around the property to ensure child safety
We feel very fortunate to meet these brave women veterans. Not only are we proud to have the opportunity to refurbish the homes and facilities where they live and receive services, but also to say ‘thank you’ for their many sacrifices.
For more information on Celebration of Service, click here.
To see additional stats and facts about women veterans and caregivers, click here.