Last week I was honored to attend my first Home Depot Celebration of Service event as one of the bloggers in the Home Depot Blogger Network.
We met at the home of Jennifer Petre, the founder of Stiggy’s Dogs near Howell, Michigan. She and her husband won Aprons In Action on The Home Depot Facebook Page. They were awarded $25,000—a small part of the $50 million commitment from The Home Depot Foundation to help Veterans programs around the country.
Jennifer founded Stiggy’s Dogs in memory of her nephew, HM3 Benjamin Phillip (“Doc Stiggy”) Castiglione who lost his life at the age of 22 while serving our country. Their tagline tells it all – Rescuing One to Rescue Another. Stiggy’s Dogs transforms shelter dogs into individually trained Psychiatric Service Animals for our military veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Tramatic Brain Injuries.
The house where Stiggy’s Dogs is located was the childhood home of Jennifer’s husband. They live upstairs and the first floor and basement are set up to house the veterans while they are getting trained with their dogs. With the money from the Home Depot Foundation, the house is getting many upgrades to make it wheelchair accessible and better designed for the veterans and dogs to live. For instance, the basement and formal living room are being made into bedrooms. Even the grounds around the house are getting some benches and tables outside for the veterans to enjoy the outdoors during the warmer months. All the improvements will make the house feel like home to all the veterans who are lucky enough to get matched up with a service dog.
When we arrived early in the morning it was a flurry of orange activity everywhere. More than 100 Michigan Home Depot employees were already working on their day off doing everything from weeding the gardens, putting in a new kitchen, and building a wheelchair ramp, along with dozens of other home improvement projects. It was a sea of orange.
Everyone in attendance was given a job to do. As the blogging team we were there to help, but also learn the why and how of everything that was being done. Not only were cosmetic fixes being done to the house, but energy saving improvements were being made as well – like caulking around the windows and doors, using the right air filters in the furnace, to a installing a programmable thermostat and replacing all the light bulbs with energy efficient types like Dimmable LED and Soft White CFL’s.
Frank Blake, the CEO of Home Depot was there to lend a hand and cheer us on during the day. He sat with the bloggers during breakfast. He was a lot of fun and very down to earth telling us about his own family and wanting to know more about us and how Pinterest works.
Michael, one of the veterans, we got to meet and his family were adorable. He and his wife told us how he had suffered from flashback nightmares for 9 years, but now his service dog, Barrett, is trained to wake him up from his nightmares as soon as they start. She tearfully shared with us how in just six short weeks of having his dog, her husband’s life has completely changed. Barrett fits right into their family. He goes everywhere with Michael wearing his blue and white service jacket. We got to meet Barrett on his downtime – no service jacket required – which meant we could pet him.
It was quite a remarkable event – to see so many volunteers in actions. The part that brought tears to my eyes was when Jennifer accepted the check from Frank Blake, Home Depot CEO. She could barely speak she was so happy and could not believe everyone was there to help make her dreams come true for Stiggy’s Dogs. After all the emotion, we did have fun. Here is a photo of the bloggers with Jennifer who is holding a Bobble Head doll of the Frank Blake.
I am proud and honored to have been able to lend a hand in a few of the home improvements being done and to help tell the story about Stiggy’s Dogs and other events that will be happening around the country as part of the Home Depot Blogging Network. At the end of the day you could see completion and progress everywhere you looked. A big thanks to the volunteers of the Howell, Michigan Home Depot and the Home Depot Foundation.
There is a two year waiting list for our veterans to be paired with a service dog. If you would like to help the organization or learn more about them, visit Stiggy’s Dogs for more information.
The Home Depot partnered with bloggers such as me for their Celebration of Service Blog Network. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any product mentioned in these posts. The Home Depot believes that consumers
and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. The Home Depot’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.