Heads Up: This post is sponsored by The Home Depot Foundation, but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure. For images and stories from other events around the country, visit the web site for the Celebration of Service.
Before last week, I wasn't aware of all the work Home Depot was doing to support our nation's veterans. On Friday, I was able to experience it first hand when they invited me to be part of and document an event called Celebration of Service.
Part of a much larger movement taking place across the country between 9/11 and Veterans Day, Home Depot's "Team Depot" has been putting their skills and talents to work by renovating 1,000 veterans' homes. Since beginning the program, they have already transformed over 13,000 homes. So, this renovation, while it was marvelous and exciting on its own, is only a drop in the bucket.
Why does Home Depot place such an emphasis on veterans? Well, on top of their strong desire to - and I truly can't put it better than them - "serve those who have served us all," it's also a very personal thing. Veterans are part of the Home Depot family, with 35,000 of their employees having served.
We started Friday morning by meeting at Kent County Habitat for Humanity. It was a gorgeous location to start the day, with skyline views of Grand Rapids to serve as a backdrop for the opening ceremony.
There was a sea of orange (Home Depot's "Team Depot"), and Red (Habitat for Humanity) as the morning kicked off. After mingling and enjoying some coffee and breakfast, a few speakers got everyone hyped up, centered on the purpose of the day, and ready to renovate some homes!
Once there, I was able to meet the veteran whose home we were working on. Lawrence Smith is a 62 year old vet who has been living in a rental apartment since being discharged in the 80s. This home will be his first, and it was wonderful to hear him speak about his hopes and dreams for it.
Lawrence has quite a few grandchildren. His biggest excitement about this new home is centered around them, and he looks forward to bringing them here to spend family time.
Another thing I heard from Lawrence was a bit about how overwhelmingly humbling this whole experience was. He was so profoundly thankful for the chance to have a home of his own where he can age in peace and enjoy his family. Lawrence is also very faith filled, and professed his belief that everyone involved in the project had been touched by God.
The project was in full swing almost immediately, and we were able to have front row seats to the big changes taking place at Lawrence's future home.
Over a longer period of time, the entire house will be renovated. On our inaugural work day, the team re-landscaped, removed all of the siding, gutted and re-sealed the bathrooms, and insulated the home.
They also removed an old rotting deck and began laying the groundwork for a new one. You better believe the new one will be bigger!
While we were working, a few pans of treats showed up - Rice Crispy Treats, Pumpkin Chocolate Cookies, and Puppy Chow. On top of the delicious burgers, hot dogs, chili, etc, there was a fuel-packed feast to be had for the day's volunteers.
Lawrence got to work, too - from nailing the insulation up to raking the leaves, he was excited to jump in and start working on his new home. I never saw him working without a smile on his face - or anyone else, for that matter.
As the day came to a close, the participating groups held a closing ceremony to commemorate the day's work and recognize the key players who made the event happen. Of course, one of the stars was Lawrence, himself, who has put in over 300 hours of 'sweat equity' with Habitat For Humanity in preparation for owning his own home.
Remember that family time Lawrence was looking forward to with his grandchildren? He's going to get it! At the end of the closing ceremony, Home Depot pledged to foot the bill for a backyard playground set of his choosing. Sounds like he won't have much of a challenge getting those grandkids over to his house. :)
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