It Was A Wet, Cold Day and the Homeless Veterans Came to the Stand Down!

Stand Down for Homeless Veterans“The Home Depot Foundation is committed to ensuring that every veteran has a safe place to call home.” Home Depot Foundation President Kelly Caffarelli

My day was a bit different than normal yesterday! I admit to being a bit of a routine type guy; maybe it comes from years of aircraft checklists and procedures, I am not sure. But, I left my comfort zone and headed out in the car solo for a drive to attend a Stand Down for Homeless Veterans! After successfully navigating my way to Lansing, MI for this event hosted by Volunteers of America (VoA) Michigan, I thought about how I had found my way there!

Last month we attended the Military Bloggers Conference in DC where we met some wonderful folks from Home Depot and the Home Depot Foundation! I wrote earlier about The Home Depot’s employment opportunities for veterans and their year round military discount! But I want to tell you about the efforts of the Home Depot Foundation to help our homeless veterans and families. I like going where the action is and wanted to see how they are helping. But action is also a commitment of $30 million dollars over the next 3 years to veteran housing issues! The HDF (aren’t acronyms great) put me in contact with VoA Michigan for their event yesterday and they also said that their President, Kelly Caffarelli, would like to talk with me about their veteran housing programs.
Home Depot Foundation Logo
Kelly and I talked for almost half an hour about the Foundation’s support to veterans. Dedicated is the best word I can use to describe her. She said that veteran sacrifices deserved our support and that, “The Home Depot Foundation is committed to ensuring that every veteran has a safe place to call home.” With about 150,000 homeless veterans during the year that is a large undertaking! Housing has the largest impact for veterans and their families and that is where they aim! Focused and on target! Sounds like the best military mission! She described their support and relationship with three non profits, Volunteers of America, Fisher House and The Mission Continues as exciting and long term. Since April they have provided $4 million in grants but they also provide supplies and volunteers from Home Depot to help during construction.

Working closely with Veterans Affairs and other government agencies they like to “fill in the gaps” for government programs. I asked if they supported individual veteran requests for support and she asked that I emphasize this point. Since the HDF focus was to support local efforts through their non profit partners, the veterans should ask for help through those channels. They are expanding their list of non profit partners and will be adding two in the near future which will be announced soon.

Kelly Cafarelli, President Home Depot FoundationThat prompted my next question, what does the Foundation look for in a non profit partner? She described three factors, 1- serving low income veterans, 2- focus on housing and 3- repair or modifying facilities versus building new ones. A track record of service such as the three they currently partner with is critical as well. She said there some great folks supporting the efforts to help homeless veterans. For example, she will be attending and speaking at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans’ annual conference which is meeting in DC in two weeks.

However, I was in the heartland yesterday to see where the rubber meets the road for our homeless veterans! It was cold (50 degrees), pouring rain and the park had some mud and very wet grass to navigate. I was touched by the event, the homeless veterans patiently waiting in lines for care, the volunteers working hard despite the conditions, the different agencies that sent representatives to reach out to homeless veterans and much more! I felt compassion and pride talking to Stanley, a homeless veteran turning his life around after dealing with addictions with drugs and alcohol.

The VoA Michigan President/CEO Alex Broderick and Patrick Patterson, VP of Operations told me their story in a chilly wet tent as others cared for veteran medical issues, provided eye care, clothes, food and so much more! “There are no limits to caring” is their motto and  I could see it in their excitement to tell me more about their efforts to help veterans. A new building renovation for a transition facility for homeless veterans in Detroit, their volunteers (7,000 in Michigan), programs such as the Stand Down, support from the Home Depot Foundation were all topics they wanted to share with me! The former Adjutant General for the Michigan National Guard, Major General Thomas Cutler, spoke at a brief ceremony and talked to me about VoAs efforts and why National Guard volunteers supported the Stand Down.

Too much to write about in one day! I will share more about the Stand Down in another blog but I was certainly impressed with the long reach of support for homeless veterans from the Home Depot Foundation and the Volunteers of America! A big thank you to Catherine Woodling, HDF PR and Communications, and Emilie Rohrbach of VoA Michigan for all their work setting up this opportunity for me! Thank you is not enough but it is heartfelt!
Have a great Memorial Day and remember our veterans who paid the ultimate price for your freedoms!  Have a hot dog and thank them for their willingness to serve! byColonel KonThursday, May 26, 2011Military Life:,,,,

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