Home Depot Foundation and San Diego Habitat for Humanity stage custom playhouse for children in military veteran families

0
189
WEBRed Playhouse.jpg

The statement emblazoned on the backs of the orange Team Depot T-shirts almost said it all, “Doing More for Veterans.”

But the activity of the 415 volunteer builders demonstrated how much more was being done.

The statement emblazoned on the backs of the orange Team Depot T-shirts almost said it all, “Doing More for Veterans.”

But the activity of the 415 volunteer builders demonstrated how much more was being done.

Workers gathered in parking lot and lawn areas of El Cajon’s Heartland Masonic Hall on the morning of March 29. Their simultaneous missions were constructing framing walls for five houses, building and painting 25 custom children’s playhouses for veteran families, and assembling 250 wellness kits for homeless veterans.

The event was staged by The Home Depot Foundation and San Diego Habitat for Humanity, which has plans to build new homes on Ballantyne Street by next year. Thirty of the volunteers that day were employees from The Home Depot stores in East County.

The first home in the planned Ballantyne Community will go to Jonathan Olayo, his wife, Sarah, and their three children. Olayo served in the Marine Corps for four years during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The family currently lives in a cramped two-bedroom apartment. The Olayos will become first-time homeowners when they move in.

“This will be our forever home,” Sarah Olayo said as she watched the construction activities. “This will be where we watch our kids grow up. We are looking forward to becoming part of the community.” Two of her children accompanied her. The Olayo kids had chosen a superhero theme for their custom-built playhouse.

One volunteer was Todd Talbot, who traveled from San Juan Capistrano to work in the hot morning sun. Talbot is president of Fluidmaster. This was his fourth time at one these events. “Our company is heavily involved with Habitat for Humanity,” he said. “We are eager to support any effort tied to veterans. This is a good connection to the community.”

Lead organizer of the volunteers was Gabe Sneller, Team Depot Manager for the Western Division. Sneller outlined how the active charitable wing of The Home Depot Foundation operates. During 2016, Team Depot volunteers participated in 3,500 projects. Roughly ten each year are big fundraising projects like the one on Ballantyne.

“The veterans issue is really near and dear to our heart,” Sneller said.

Home Depot counts over 35,000 veterans among the company’s approximately 400,000 employees nationwide. Sneller trains employees in community service. “I have the best job in the company, working for the best company in the world,” Sneller said. The volunteer framers signed personal messages of welcome, love and blessing onto the wood for the houses’ future resident families.

The Vet Center motor home was on hand for the event, parked near tables where the homeless veteran wellness kits were being put together. The assembled items focused on hygiene and comfort, including toiletries and socks. Some of the kits contained items especially for homeless female veterans. The kits were slated for immediate distribution, some as soon as that night.

Jonathan Olayo arrived to join his family near the end of the day’s activities. He and Sarah held hands as he described how much his family appreciated that their new home was being “built with love.” He said they were delighted when they learned that the family qualified to receive a house in the Ballantyne Community.

What does this mean to him? “This means everything to me. This means the world,” Olayo replied, smiling. “This is where we will have memories of the kids growing up. We will have a place to call home.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here