The Home Depot Foundation

Fred Wacker, Director and Chief Operating Officer

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The Home Depot Foundation is a 501(c) (3) organization that was established in 2002 to further the community building goals of The Home Depot by providing additional resources to assist nonprofit organizations. 

The Home Depot Foundation has seen firsthand how increasing access to affordable housing changes people's lives, gives them hope and alleviates years of frustration. Since its formation, The Home Depot Foundation has granted $70 million to nonprofit organizations and supported the development of more than 50,000 affordable, healthy homes. 

While focused on building affordable homes, The Home Depot Foundation is also committed to improving the overall health of our communities. Taking a long-term, comprehensive approach to building healthy, stable communities where families can thrive, the foundation invests in the planting and restoration of trees along streets and in in parks and schoolyards; the building and refurbishment of community play spaces; and the revitalization of school facilities. 

Currently, Fred Wacker serves as director and chief operating officer at The Home Depot Foundation. Wacker has been involved in affordable housing and community development for more than 30 years. Prior professional positions include southeast regional director of the Fannie Mae Foundation, community investment officer and deputy director of community investment services for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, and national director of Neighborhood Program Development for NeighborWorks® America, formerly called the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation. 

In his interview, Wacker talks about the core values of The Home Depot Foundation. Part of these core values is the "living values wheel" - the foundation's philosophy on giving back to the community. According to the "living values wheel," the foundation assists communities not only with money and technical support, but it also emphasizes actual sweat equity in the form of volunteer work.

Read the interview with Fred Wacker of The Home Depot Foundation:

How does the Home Depot Foundation's partnership with NLC fit into its mission?

NLC is about cities. NLC supports local government and trying to improve the quality of life for citizens in those cities. At the Home Depot Foundation, we view ourselves as more than just being a corporate citizen in the city. We like to be viewed as a welcome to residents. By being a Capstone Corporate Partner with the National League of Cities, it allows us to do a couple of things. First, we can work more closely with cities on issues that are common around the country. We learn about them and figure out how we can deploy our resources and use our knowledge and experience to help cities with those problems. Second, two of our values at the foundation are to be a knowledge leader and to be a convener. We can do that most effectively though our partnership with the National League of Cities.

What is the mission statement and goals for corporate social responsibility at the Home Depot Foundation?

In January of this year, the Home Depot Foundation said that our mission and goal was to make sure that every veteran has a safe place to call home. And our goal is to work with a network of national, regional and local non-profits to serve veterans and to ensure that they're off the streets, have a safe place to live and grow either as an individual or as a family.

Does the Home Depot Foundation have programs in communities that are Home Depot employee driven?

Yes, it's a program called Team Depot. Every Home Depot store has what's called the Team Depot captain. This individual does all of the outreach and all of the organizing of our store associates, who will then work in the community on volunteer projects.

In what ways does the Home Depot Foundation demonstrate its corporate citizenship responsibilities at the local level?

Employees work with non-profit organizations in the community on specific projects. Projects could be rehabbing homes, planting trees, painting senior citizens' centers or a variety of other activities that are needed in the community and can be done without any cost, through donated products like paint from our stores and having our associates do the painting.

We also have a brand new product donation program. I can't say every one right now, because the program is fairly new, but our goal is to have each store matched with a local non-profit and on a weekly basis donate building products to it. Right now the program is three years old. We've got about a thousand of our stores matched with the local non-profit, and we've donated over $100 million in good building materials that the non-profits can use to rehab houses, build houses, work on community centers and do landscaping.

What is the corporate philosophy for Home Depot employees that want to support their communities?

One of the core values of the Home Depot Foundation - part of what we call our living values wheel - is giving back to community. This includes not only money and technical support but actual sweat equity in the form of volunteer work.

Does the Home Depot Foundation provide employees time during their workday to volunteer for local projects and programs?

If it's a group project, generally some of our associates - they won't take time off - they'll just go do the project in the community. We have another program where associates for up to eight hours of their own time can volunteer on a community project, provided that they're working with a non-profit organization. So let's say one of our associates works eight hours on their time off and helps paint a community center, we will actually pay the non-profit that they're doing the service for $12 an hour for that employee's volunteer work. It's called Dollars for Doers.

We have a concentrated period of time where all of our stores do volunteer work around the country, and they call it Celebration of Service. We're going to be working all around the country during the period of September 11th to November 11th, 2011, doing volunteer projects particularly focused on serving the needs of veterans. So that's another way we use our associates to give back to the community.

Do you have examples of local government initiatives where Home Depot employees provide their technical and building skills to develop or maintain houses or other community structures?

We do it with our volunteer workforce. We do it with providing grant support. Some examples of projects we've worked on directly with cities are as follows. We were the lead supporter of Mayor Bloomberg's million tree campaign in New York City. We were the lead funder and we attracted other foundations.

We have launched the Project 14 program with Mayor Dave Bing of Detroit, which uses the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) money match, along with some of our funding to rehab foreclosed homes that will then be sold to first responders like policemen, firemen, nurses and teachers.

In Atlanta, we are working with Mayor Kasim Reed on reopening what he is now calling Centers of Hope. These were community centers in key neighborhoods around Atlanta that provided a safe haven and a training opportunity for youth in those communities but because of budget cuts were shut down.

Does the Home Depot Foundation engage in disaster assistance? With the number of floods and storms that we've had throughout the U.S., do you have a philosophy around assisting in those areas?

We have a (501(c)(3) called the Homer Fund that is funded by the company and volunteer contributions from about 250,000 of our associates. It's a national model program, and it's an employee assistance program for associates who have emergencies that come about - whether it's tornadoes, flooding or personal situations in their life. Our employees can get direct grants of up to $10,000, or they can get education scholarships for their children to help offset the cost of college.

But the fund was really created to respond to the emergency needs of our associates. So for instance, in Joplin, Miss., the tornado totally destroyed our store. We agreed that we were going to rebuild our store, but that would take several months. We're going to continue our associates on payroll during the time of reconstruction and provide them with other emergency assistance, such as food assistance, temporary shelter and rent payments.

And what's really exciting about this program is it was originally created as a concept of the founders of the Home Depot, Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, because they said if we want to keep good quality employees, we need to take care of them beyond just payroll. So right now, 80 percent of the money that's distributed for emergencies for associates actually comes from volunteer payroll deductions from our associates. They saw the real value of being helped and wanting to help other associates. But it's an incredibly powerful motivating program, which our associates have really embraced and recognized as a real added benefit of working at the Home Depot.

Do you have any additional comments?

I think another aspect of our work and the way we give back is board service. Many of us, from the highest levels within the company to associates in the stores, work as volunteers on boards of directors of non-profit organizations.

Read more about NLC Corporate Partner The Home Depot Foundation.

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