RICHLAND HILLS — Even as the sky threatens to open above them and pour down sheets of rain, volunteers from Home Depot are grinning as they scrape, paint, and clean up the home of Ken Webb. A veteran whose kidneys have troubled him for years, Webb is not at home on this day. He’s at the hospital, undergoing tests. But when he returns, he’ll find the house he’s shared with his 90-year-old father for the last seven years revitalized.
The Community Powered Revitalization (CPR) program has been growing in this area for seven years. Nearly 500 families have been touched by the efforts of thousands of volunteers who give their time to make little changes to homes that have a big impact on homeowner. This batch of several dozen volunteers in bright orange shirts are no different. They’ve surrendered their free time — days off, hours before a shift, even the rare vacation allotment — to serve veterans in the mid-cities area. Each of them is very much aware that the little things mean a lot.
“When you first start doing it, you really don’t see the impact,” said Will Kratz, a store manager at the Home Depot in Lake Worth. “But whenever you see the veterans come out and start talking to everybody, you see that a little paint on the house really isn’t that big, but it means the world to them.”
When things begin to unravel, they also start to build up. Chipped paint is just chipped paint, until it’s also sagging eaves, a rotting fence, and wildlife finding a way into the attic. When the little hassles of homeownership start to pile up, even a little help can be a huge relief. And several dozen people offering a little help can make a huge difference.
Every year, the Home Depot’s non-profit foundation, Team Depot, supports local service projects nationwide. During the Fall in particular, the foundation contributes thousands of volunteer hours to veterans through the Celebration of Service event. The nationwide drive engages individual stores and corporate districts to meet needs within each community they serve. In most cases, every individual store has its own project. But some projects are bigger than one store.
There are 9 Home Depot locations within the corporate district that serves our community here in North Texas, and every one of them was represented during the service blitz on November 2nd. During these events, each store helps to determine the cost of work required and the necessary funds are supplied by Team Depot. The foundation partners with local nonprofits like 6 Stones to organize their service and maximize the impact of their donations.
“You guys have been phenomenal with bringing us houses, but also having it completely set up and done correctly, [so that] we can walk in and just have a bunch of labor for you guys,” said Taylor Fichtner, a store manager in Roanoke, when asked about the value of partnering with 6 Stones.
“I think the biggest thing is being able to make an impact in the community. At the store level, you’re focused on setting ads and setting events and making sure that you have staffed correctly. But when you can take a break and you can come out and have fun; meet different associates from other stores, hang out with other store managers, and be able to actually see the difference where you take a house that was in disrepair or somebody who was in need — when you leave, they’re in tears and they’re so thankful for what you can do — for a day’s worth of work? That, to me, is huge. When you can have an impact in a day’s time that really leaves a lasting, lifelong impact on the person, how can you go wrong?”
Fichtner has been with Home Depot for more than 15 years. He first started with the company in Oklahoma, and he still remembers volunteering to help rebuild his community after natural disasters had torn it apart. Tornadoes and hail are a consistent threat in the Sooner State, and much of the work Team Depot did at his old location was in direct response to the destruction that comes with the unforgiving weather. The work here is different, but the purpose remains the same.
It’s good business to do good. Having your brand tied to charity and putting down roots in your community are essential to earning consumer trust and building a business. It’s hard to overlook the masses of neon orange gathered on the lawns of local homes. Cars slow down to investigate, pedestrians pause to stare. It’s great exposure for Home Depot. But that’s a bonus, not the main motivation.
“Just being out and visible in the community not only gives the individual a sense of belonging and a sense of accomplishment, but it makes the community around them feel like Home Depot is a part of their community. We’re a huge corporation, and we want to leave the best footprint in the community that we can and one of the ways that we do that is by going out and volunteering,” said Kaci Bowen, an operations assistant manager at the Keller location.
“For me, the serving part of it is [worth so much] more because this isn’t something that I do as a hobby. This isn’t something that I’m going to do at my own house. But to come and volunteer my time and learn new things and really just step outside of my comfort zone to do something for somebody else is important to me.”
Bowen, by her own confession, is “not a handy person.” Faced with the same repairs on her own home, she would hire a contractor. But she loves volunteering with Team Depot because it stretches her and connects her to her work family. She never expected to be working at Home Depot, but it was an easy landing place when she walked away from a PhD program. Her aunt, then a cashier at the Lake Worth store, helped her to get a job in the company. Promotions followed, and Bowen says that she can’t imagine leaving now, in large part because of her employer’s dedication to community service.
“I just never wanted to leave, because of things like this and some other things that we do for our associates. It’s a great company to be with and I never saw a reason to leave,” she said. “Everybody feels good when they do something. Everybody feels like they’re really participated when they’re there, on the ground, in the communities, doing these kinds of things… people get a sense of accomplishment from volunteering, that’s just something across the board.”
That sense of accomplishment is earned with sweat and reflected in stained clothing. It’s a desire built into every one of us, quenched only when we live in accordance with our design. Team Depot volunteers want the same thing 6 Stones wants: to see the world restored by that desire, to that design. That’s what makes them a great partner. That’s why, in one day this November, we were able to count on them to hold up the second half of the company slogan.
More doing, indeed.