Archive for June, 2011

Helping Joplin Recover & Rebuild

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Being a frequent flier, I’m usually not really excited about being on a plane at 8 a.m. on Monday morning. I’m also not usually dressed in sneakers, jeans and an orange t-shirt and planning on getting dirty and sweaty. Today’s a little different, though, as it promises to be one of the most meaningful days I’ve had in a long time. Why? I’m on the way to Joplin, Missouri with about 200 of my fellow Home Depot associates from Atlanta.

We’re among the fortunate ones who are able to volunteer to go help clean up and make repairs in the aftermath of the devastating tornado that hit Joplin on May 22. I say “fortunate” not only because our community was not destroyed by storm, but also because there’s a waiting list of people who wanted to participate. While I went to Joplin immediately after the tornado to assess the damage and determine how The Home Depot Foundation could best help the community as well as our own associates, today is the first time most of the associates from Atlanta have been to visit. But they, as well as scores of other associates from as far away as Seattle, have been asking for the opportunity to volunteer in Joplin since the day after the tornado.img_7420

Many of today’s volunteers work at our Store Support Center in Atlanta and have been instrumental in helping the community and associates recover and in preparing for the opening of a new temporary store to serve customers after our store was destroyed by the tornado. They all wanted to come in person and show their support with their own sweat equity.

We’re focusing on two main projects today. We are repairing and replacing the roof, windows and siding on a Home Depot associate’s home which was severely damaged by the tornado. In addition, we’ll be repairing and renovating the local Little League Park so that the entire community has one place where things are returned to normal…where families and children can play.

Our associates volunteering today add to the more than 500 Home Depot associates throughout the Midwest who have already made the trek to Joplin to volunteer their time and specialized skills to help with clean up and repair activities. It’s been an amazing show of support for each other and for the community.

We’re committed to Joplin for the long haul. In addition to volunteer activities, The Home Depot Foundation has pledged $1 million to clean-up and rebuilding initiatives. We’ve already distributed $250,000 to the Joplin Family YMCA for the Joplin Childcare Relief Program that provides free day care services to the community during the immediate relief efforts; and to Convoy of Hope and Operation Blessing, two nonprofit organizations that are doing amazing work to help residents in need.

The flight attendant is telling me to shut down, but I have to first sincerely thank our fellow Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, Georgia Pacific, Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A for helping make today happen. Delta generously provided a 757 jet free of charge to fly us this morning at no small cost to them…$50,000 to be exact; Georgia-Pacific donated several thousand pounds of paper plates, cups, napkins and other products for Convoy of Hope’s relief efforts; and Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A are providing us with food and drinks throughout the day. We are grateful to our corporate friends for jumping into this initiative with no hesitation.

More later…stay tuned for additional updates throughout the day by following us on Twitter (@homedepotfdn or @homedepot).

Reflections of Joplin

Friday, June 17th, 2011

I’ve been getting my frequent flier miles the last couple of weeks as I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with a number of nonprofit organizations that focus on helping veterans with their housing needs.  I attended the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference, met with representatives of the White House’s Joining Forces effort, had dinner with the Special Assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Warrior & Family Support and then headed to South Dakota for a gathering of 350 of the dedicated people who work for Volunteers of America.   Each conversation affirmed my belief that our new mission is right for us: to ensure that all veterans and their families have a safe place to call home.

I have to admit, though, that through this time in the back of my mind I was always thinking about what I saw when I visited Joplin, MO shortly after the tornado struck there last month.  I was constantly thinking about what we were doing to help the families…and what more we could do.  The destruction I saw was shocking and has lingered in my mind’s eye.

Joplin

As we announced previously, the Foundation is committed to helping with the recovery and rebuilding efforts.  On May 24, we announced that we will invest $1 million to help Joplin recover and rebuild.  So far, we have made grants of $250,000:

  • $100,000 to the Joplin Family YMCA to establish a free childcare center to the community
  • $100 to Convoy of Hope’s efforts to provide relief supplies to Joplin residents
  • $50,000 to Operation Blessing International to help coordinate the projects Home Depot volunteers have completed

Speaking of volunteers, we’ve had groups of associates travel to Joplin from around the Midwest to help their neighbors.  By the end of the month, we’ll have had close to 1,000 Home Depot associates volunteer to clean up yards, tarp roofs and repair homes.  Many more have sent me messages asking what they can do.  It really is what we do for our friends and families – when someone is in a bad situation, we ask how we can help.  It’s at times like these that I see most clearly that we don’t just talk about taking care of one another and our communities, we actually live it.

This was brought to light to me by one particular project.  Since the storm hit, John and Debbie Lacey, both in their mid-sixties, had been living in a tent behind their home.  Our partner, Operation Blessing International, identified the Laceys as a family that could use our help, and in true Home Depot fashion, our Team Depot volunteers stepped up in a big way.  In just seven days, over 300 volunteers from around the region worked with Operation Blessing International to completely rebuild the Lacey’s damaged home from the studs up, and on Tuesday, June 14th, surprised them with an “Extreme Makeover” type reveal to welcome them home.

lacey-family-homeWe recognize that the Laceys are just one family and there is much more work to be done.  That’s why, over the next few days, weeks and months,  you’ll see that we are truly committed to rebuilding Joplin one home, one park, one neighborhood at a time.

For more information on our disaster relief efforts, click here.

Aprons in Action: May Winner of $25,000 Gift Card Announced; June Finalists Announced

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

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I’m so excited today to announce that the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit, Michigan is the May winner of our Aprons in Action program on Facebook. They received 6,181 votes, or 41 percent of the total votes cast.  A big thanks to everyone who voted for them, and for all of the finalists.  And kudos to the Ronald McDonald House for working so hard every day to mobilize their supporters to vote.  There were so many moving posts on our Facebook wall about families that have been helped in Detroit by this great organization.  As most people know, Ronald McDonald Houses provide a home-away-from-home for families of seriously ill children who are seeking medical treatment in a city far from their hometown.  High hotel and food bills are a tremendous burden on families whose lives are on hold as they care for their sick children, and Ronald McDonald Houses provide a comfortable, safe place for these families that eliminates part of their financial stress and provides tremendous emotional support.  Each home is independently operated, so fundraising is certainly a big goal for them.

The Home Depot associates in Detroit  have already volunteered their time and know-how skills to make some improvements at the Ronald McDonald House, and with this $25,000 gift card, they’ll be able to complete additional rehab work on the house that is much needed.   They’ll be installing new carpeting, painting the interior of the home, replacing malfunctioning windows, and renovating several more guest rooms for the many families who are served by the organization each year.

Congrats are also in order for the Children’s Cancer Association, WNY AmeriCorps, and Youth for Tomorrow for participating in May’s competition.   Each of these organizations will receive a $5,000 gift card to complete projects alongside their Team Depot volunteer partners.   All these organizations provide a valuable service to their respective communities, and we look forward to the great work we are going to do together. Check back on our website or Facebook page to see photos and videos of their progress.

Through our Aprons in Action program, our goal is to give you a window into the volunteer work our associates do every day in their local communities.  They use their project know-how skills to improve the homes and lives of deserving families.  Check out some of our recent Team Depot projects on our web site. In addition, we want to highlight the work of the great nonprofits we partner with in local communities across the U.S.  And finally, we want to give you…the online community…an opportunity to vote for your favorite projects – your votes are going to help us give away $1 million through Facebook this year to local nonprofits like the Ronald McDonald House.

So jump on the bandwagon and visit our Facebook page to vote for the newly announced June finalists.  You can vote once a day from now until June 30.  It’s a great group of nonprofits:

  • The Abilities Foundation (Seminole, FL) raises, invests, and distributes funds to ensure that people with disabilities have proper employment, housing, and health needs.
  • The Jerusalem House (Atlanta, GA) provides permanent, supportive housing for homeless and low income men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • Service International (St. Louis, MO) reaches out to people in desperate situations all over the world. They empower individuals and communities in crisis to help themselves by providing relief training and assistance for natural disasters, crisis relief, and medical care.
  • Teen Challenge (Reno, NV) provides residential recovery programs for men, women, children and families throughout California and Nevada.

Joplin: Join Us on Our Journey to Rebuild

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
Team Depot Gets to Work

Team Depot Gets to Work

By now, we’ve all seen the heartbreaking images of the destruction in Joplin, Missouri.  I was there last week along with representatives from The Home Depot’s Store Support Center in Atlanta to meet with our associates impacted by the tornado, assess the immediate needs of the community and begin to see how best to partner with non-profit groups to deploy volunteers, dollars and products as Joplin rebuilds.  By the time we landed in Joplin last Tuesday, I had seen the videos, flipped through the online photo albums and thought I had a good understanding of the damage.  From the moment the town came into view from the airplane window, however, I knew I didn’t yet understand anything.  I’ve seen the damage of natural disasters before having visited Mississippi and Louisiana shortly after Katrina and witnessed the scars of wildfires in south Georgia.  This, however, was different because of the distinction between the areas that were hit – and therefore destroyed – and those just around the corner that showed no damage but for the debris – bits of wood and insulation from what used to be homes.

My heart was already broken for the people who lost homes, businesses and loved ones, including our own associates.  But none of the news coverage prepared me for what I actually saw and heard from the residents of Joplin.  Frightening stories of panic and sad words of loss.  Less than 48 hours after the storm, I believe some were still in shock, trying to process what had happened in those few moments when the tornado blew through.

What was very clear, though, was that many among our associates and throughout Joplin were true heroes that Sunday evening.  They risked their own safety to help others; they gave shelter in their basements to strangers; and they have faith in their neighbors and in their community.  The people I talked to last Tuesday wanted to talk about what was next far more than they wanted to recount their experiences.

As for The Home Depot Foundation, we take the situation in Joplin very personally.  The Home Depot store was destroyed in a community that many of our associates and customers call home.  We are committed to Joplin for the long haul, and we will rebuild that store.  But that’s not all.  The Home Depot Foundation is donating $1 million to the immediate relief, recovery and long-term rebuilding efforts in Joplin.  As we learned through our work in the Gulf after similar destruction from Katrina, the rebuilding will take years.  We want Joplin residents to know that we will be with them every step of the way.

As a result of our trip to Joplin, one of the first donations we’ve made is for $100,000 to the Joplin Family YMCA to support its efforts to provide free day care services to impacted families.  To us, this was an important asset for parents who need to assess the damage to their homes, figure out what needed to be done and return to work, particularly since school was cancelled for the remainder of the year.  We also have Team Depot associates on the ground working to help the residents of Joplin who need an extra hand, particularly those who are elderly or disabled.  In fact, just yesterday (5-31-11), a group of our associates volunteered with Operation Blessing to begin the salvage and clean-up process at five job sites through the city.  Team Depot volunteers are focused on installing “Blue Roofs” (tarps) on homes and  large debris cleanup. Along with Operation Blessing, we will do roof repairs and structural salvages for as many residents as possible.  See the photos from a long day of work.

We’ll be allocating more resources to nonprofit organizations in the days to come, and we’ll keep you posted on our web site and this blog.  You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with our efforts.

As I mentioned earlier, we have hundreds of associates in Joplin who were severely affected by this terrible storm.  That’s why The Homer Fund, a charity for The Home Depot associates in need of emergency financial assistance, has launched a companywide “Drive for Joplin” campaign to help associates and their families affected by the tornado.  The Homer Fund is primarily funded by donations from associates…we’re like family, and this is one of the ways we take care of each other. (Since The Homer Fund started in 1999, it has dispersed more than 45,000 grants totaling over $50 million to associates with qualifying hardships. Learn more.)

The devastation in Joplin is indescribable.  I saw it with my own eyes, and I still can’t believe it.   If you want to help, I encourage you to join us as contributors to the American Red Cross or support the Foundation’s efforts to rebuild Joplin.  But most importantly, I hope you’ll join me in continuing to send thoughts and prayers to all of the residents of Joplin who are still struggling in the aftermath of this terrible storm.