By Susan Drake Swift
One, both organizations deeply cared about the same disgraceful problem, veterans who are homeless. Two, both were putting their efforts – time and money – toward solving it. Three, both wanted to improve on what they had done so far. This was the firm foundation of their partnership. More was to come.
When The Home Depot Foundation opted for a change in its “giving back” strategy in 2011, it looked for the right partners to develop a new architecture for success. On their checklist: “wide reach, well-established, with the trust of the community, the best of the best.”
“And I can honestly say we found all those things in Volunteers of America,” says Heather Prill, senior manager for national partnerships at The Home Depot Foundation. “For our purposes, we wanted an organization with a strong background in housing as well as the ability to provide wrap around services. We do the bricks and sticks, the creation and rehab of homes and facilities, and have done that for a long time. We were looking for partners with the infrastructure to leverage our housing efforts to truly help veterans get back on their feet. The more we learned about Volunteers of America, the more we connected with them.”
“Multiple sparks lit the partnership between us and The Home Depot Foundation,” agrees Shelley Goode, Volunteers of America’s senior vice president for development. “They were changing focus and our work serving approximately 40,000 veterans each year came on their radar screen.”
Since 2011, Home Depot has invested more than $110 million to help build and transform more than 25,000 homes for veterans, with close to $10 million supporting 73 Volunteers of America veterans’ housing projects, most of which come with 24-7 services. Housing units constructed or renovated number over 2,500, including more than 400 units for women veterans and their families, in 18 states.* These living quarters range, for example, from Hope Manor in Joliet, Illinois, for families and heads of households; Claremont Commons, with transitional housing provided in smaller, family home-style environments in Denver, Colorado; and Blue Butterfly Village for women veterans and their children in Los Angeles.
And the building goes beyond the tangible.
“We are building a culture of philanthropy.” says Shelley. The foundation’s leadership reflects the strong commitment to veterans at Atlanta-based The Home Depot Corporation. And no wonder: as Heather explains, some 35,000 of The Home Depot’s more than 330,000 employees (called associates) are themselves veterans. Every single associate has the opportunity to contribute time and their do-it-yourself talents to make a difference through Team Depot, the company’s associate-led volunteer force.
Volunteers of America’s mission stems from a faith-based commitment that guides its work serving America’s most vulnerable, says Shelley. But while that commitment informs and inspires its efforts, it in no way restricts who can benefit from them. The founders of The Home Depot similarly instituted, and current management emphasizes, a “values wheel” that “guides the beliefs and actions of all associates on a daily basis.” The Home Depot recognizes that these values are its “competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
A good description of the Volunteers of America –Home Depot partnership in action.
*Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington