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.
The Home Depot Foundation and the Team Depot program offer opportunities for our associates to give back to the communities that we serve. Each and every day, our associates partner with nonprofits and roll up their sleeves to repair and beautify homes, facilities and community spaces for those in need. These initiatives serve as a powerful experience for those being helped. But often, the experience is as powerful for volunteers as well. In some instances, giving back truly changes the lives of associates. We profile some of those changed lives here.
Scott Krueger – Store Manager, Store 2305 in Louisville, Ky.
Scott has been involved with Team Depot since 2006. He served first as a volunteer, then as Team Depot Captain and now as a District Captain. In 2012, Scott and Store 2305 established a relationship with Active Heroes, a local organization that has assisted more than 1,800 military families, veterans and wounded warriors with support services.
After a year that included multiple Team Depot projects and a grand-prize winning appearance in the Foundation’s Aprons in Action competition, Scott was asked by the president of Active Heroes to join their board of directors. He willingly accepted.
“The experience of working with this organization and helping with their success is a beautiful thing,” Scott said. “It aligns directly with our values wheel and it’s very rewarding.”
Jimmy Van Loon – Freight Department Supervisor, Store 4915 in Green Bay, Wis.
Jimmy has always enjoyed artistic expression. His hobby was derailed, however, when he badly cut his left hand in an accident at home, nearly losing his thumb. At times, he felt that he was ready to give up his artwork. But last year, he decided to give it another shot and participated in the Celebration of Service patriotic apron decorating contest – ultimately winning the competition. Though the task of designing and painting the apron wasn’t easy, the opportunity to artistically show appreciation for those who have served our country turned out to be just the push he needed.
Over the last year since the competition ended, Jimmy has continued with his art and has nearly completed a huge project – an 8-foot by 18.5-foot mural for a Disabled American Veterans center in De Pere. And his comeback all started with an apron!
“I am a Desert Storm veteran and I really wanted to paint an apron for my fellow brothers and sisters,” Jimmy said. “That decision has inspired me to honor all veterans in my community.”
Judy Custer – Pro Account Sales Associate, Store 2717 in Burton, Mich.
Judy Custer began working at The Home Depot in August 2000. By September, she had already found her way to Team Depot. It all began with a chance encounter with her store’s Team Depot Captain, who was working hard to pull together materials needed for a last-minute project at an apartment complex that had burnt down. Judy quickly volunteered to help. She was a huge asset to the project and was surprised a short time later by the news that she had been named the store’s next Team Depot Captain and also the District Team Depot Captain.
With nine stores in her district, Judy has made community service her personal mission and has worked tirelessly to make her district’s program incredibly successful. In 13 years, she has organized and facilitated hundreds of projects and disaster relief efforts. Judy has seen firsthand how time flies when you’re having fun.
“I love my job,” Judy said. “I get to help people, I get to fix things and make their lives easier. I just love it.”
Celebration of Service is just less than a month away. Behind the scenes, The Home Depot Foundation team has been hard at work making sure all systems are a go for the third annual campaign starting Sept. 11. For two months throughVeterans Day, thousands of Home Depot associates will complete more than 350 serviceprojects across the country. The campaign kicks off in Los Angeles on Sept. 5, with two projects in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of GreaterLos Angeles and Volunteers of America, both focusing on women veterans and their families.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles introduced us to Lidia Perez, a Navy veteran who served for five years and saw combat twice with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. She is a single mother of two young boys and shares her home with her mother, two adult sisters and two nieces.
“Since June, we’ve have been working to locate a woman veteran in need of critical home repairs for the launch,” said Sherry Caraway, western division foundation field manager. “To launch Celebration of Service, Team Depot will paint the home, install a fence and turn a bare backyard into an outdoor living space and child friendly play area, in addition to other projects.”
As the campaign continues, the Foundation’s national partners, such as Volunteers of America and Operation Homefront, will identify other exciting projects across the country that serve women veterans and families.
“The great thing about our partners is that they focus on housing for veterans throughout the year and can identify meaningful projects that will impact lives long after our Team Depot project is done,” said Heather Pritchard, senior manager of national partnerships and Atlanta. “The hours we spend on projects during Celebration of Service will change lives for many veterans and their families for years to come.”
Backed by the Foundation’s five-year, $80 million commitment to ensure military veterans and their families have a safe place to call home, The Home Depot Foundation’s third annual Celebration of Service campaign will mobilize its army of nearly 9,000 Team Depot volunteers to work side-by-side with veterans to complete more than 350 projects.
“Many women veterans find themselves and their families without a safe place to call home after dedicating years bravely serving our country,” said Kelly Caffarelli, president of The Home Depot Foundation. “During our third annual Celebration of Service, our mission is not only to repair and refurbish the homes and facilities where veterans live and receive services, but also to show our appreciation to veterans and their families for their sacrifices.”
We also want your veteran stories. Send photos and/or videos with stories of veterans who are important to you to The Home Depot Foundation by emailing HDVets@homedepot.com Your submission might be featured on the Foundation’s social media accounts.
Through Team Depot, our associate-led volunteer program, The Home Depot Foundation provides opportunities for our associates to contribute their home improvement know-how to make a difference in their communities. Store Manager David Cabrera truly exemplifies The Home Depot’s core value of Giving Back through his volunteer work with Veterans Village in Las Vegas. Below, check out the blog about his experience.
I believe in giving back to the community and so does my employer, The Home Depot.
The Home Depot Foundation’s involvement with Veterans Village started almost a year ago when we learned more about the organization through a media interview. Part of our mission is to seek out local organizations that could use assistance. We chose Veterans Village!
We contacted Arnold Stalk, the Veterans Village founder, and requested a tour to learn more about the organization. During that visit, we asked if there were ways to help improve the facility. That’s when we really got involved and made plans for renovations.
In October of 2012, more than 300 Home Depot volunteers donated their time to landscape the facility and provide interior updates, exterior painting and a new kitchen. Also, in February of 2013 we went back to announce a $600,000 grant to complete renovations, including a new roof, parking lot, windows, interior flooring and additional landscaping.
We are so happy that the Veterans Village residents and staff are pleased with the changes. We’re willing to work with them for future projects whenever possible.
I encourage everyone to get involved as much as possible. I cannot emphasize enough that we wouldn’t have our rights and freedoms without veterans. That’s why I’m proud of all the help we’ve provided for Veterans Village so far!
Store manager and district community captain for The Home Depot store Eastern & 215, South Las Vegas
In May of this year, retailers from across the country participated in the 2013 National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2013 Global Supply Chain Summit. Home Depot’s Charles Johnston, director of the repair and liquidation center, joined Good360 Vice President of donor Relations Doyle Delph to highlight the Framing Hope Program and make the case for donating unused goods to nonprofits in local communities.
Jennifer Overstreet recently featured the discussion on the NRF blog. Check it out here.
For more information on the Framing Hope Program, visit our website.
The Home Depot is a values-based business. Our founders established these values more than 30 years ago, and we still live by them daily. Through The Home Depot Foundation and The Homer Fund, we work to fulfill two of our core values: giving back to local communities and taking care of our associates.
We are proud of what our volunteers, community partners and associates accomplish together by giving back and taking care of each other. Check out the latest quarterly Values Update to catch up with some of the highlights of what we’ve been doing over the last few months, and if you’re interested in more information, visit our websites at www.HomeDepotFoundation.org and www.THDHomerFund.org.
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.