I had an opportunity to travel to Michigan a couple of weeks ago to participate in a community service project with The Home Depot Foundation’s Celebration of Service. I expected it to be a wonderful experience, but I had no idea that what was in store for me was more than I could have ever imagined. It was such an honor to play even the very small part that I did in such an incredible project, and I will always hold it dear.
Along with eleven other bloggers, I spent the day at Stiggy’s Dogs, an organization that “by uniting military veterans and rehabilitated shelter dogs, we are rescuing one to rescue another”.
There are people in this world that are “do-ers”. Jennifer Petre, the founder of Stiggy’s Dogs, is one of those people. She and her husband Joe run the organization from their home in Howell, MI, and to say I was touched by who they are and what they do is an understatement. They “rescue and train shelter dogs to be psychiatric service dogs for military veterans living with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). The service dogs are trained and deployed at no cost to the veteran.”
Their home, and the property where all of this happens is incredibly peaceful and beautiful–wooded acres that include a large garden, chicken coop, fishing pond, and the quiet security that is necessary to the entire process. It was designed to help the dogs and veterans to get to know each other, and experience working together in a variety of settings that the veteran might normally have as a part of his life. The home was the center of the service project, as it needed to be completely handicap accessible. The main floor went through a major overhaul, including a total kitchen makeover, extending a bathroom, turning a dining room into a bedroom, and making it a place for the veterans to stay while training with their dog. The outside of the home went through it’s own renovation. A handicap accessible ramp was added to the outside of the home, the garden was cleaned out and weeded, plants and flowers were planted, mulch was laid down, fences went up and were stained, and even more!
All of this work was done by The Home Depot employees, who volunteered their time and donated their talents. Everyone was in orange shirts, and so happy and excited to be there. They worked incredibly hard, had a great time doing it, and I even learned The Home Depot cheer. :)
During the day, some of the veterans were there along with their dogs. One of the most touching parts of the experience for me was to meet them and their dogs, talk to them, and hear their stories. One veteran in particular brought his darling family–his wife and two of his children–and we saw up close and personal just how much this organization has changed the lives of the veterans the dogs they help. Mike and his dog Barrett have been together for only two months, but already his life has vastly changed and improved. After living with ongoing nightmares for more than 9 years, Barrett helps him through the night, watches his back 24 hours a day, and is now a part of the family. His wife was very candid about how their life was, and how it is now. Literally, tears came to my eyes as she spoke, and I was overcome with gratitude for this incredible organization and the service they give to these men that sacrificed everything to serve and defend our country–and each one of us. I was personally very grateful for a very new perspective and a reminder of that sacrifice that each of us need and should pay heed to.
Aren’t they SO cute?
Frank Blake, CEO of The Home Depot was also there, and it was my distinct pleasure, along with the other bloggers, to meet with him, and ask any questions we wanted to over breakfast the morning of the project. He was funny, real, and genuinely interested in what we had to say. A former attorney and clerk to a Supreme Justice, and now as a CEO of a very large and successful company, he could been quite intimidating, but his unassuming and down-to-earth manner was infectious, and put everyone at ease. We all relaxed, and enjoyed a breakfast full of questions on both sides of the table on a variety of subjects–everything from veterans (his son served in the military), to home improvement, and even Pinterest! It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. We also learned a lot about energy saving tips and ideas, and I’m eager to share those with you in future posts.
Yes. That’s me…with Frank Blake!!! I think this one might have to go in a frame…
Last, but certainly not least, are all the amazing bloggers that experienced all of this with me. Each of them are exceptional bloggers, and exceptional people–each talented in their own way. Some were military bloggers, including some who have had and still do have spouses that are currently serving in the military, and are gone for months at a time. I learned much from them as well, and I appreciated their candor in sharing their own life experiences. The other bloggers focused on DIY like I do, and their creativity was also inspiring. It was such a pleasure to meet them, and we had a wonderful time working together. The bloggers include: 24/7 Moms, Beneath My Heart, Decor Chick, The Handmade Home, In My Own Style, Lovely Crafty Home, My Repurposed Life, Not Just a Housewife, Military Avenue, The New Normal, and Witty Little Secret.
This has been so rewarding for me, and I hope you are able to glean some of that from what I’ve written today. I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again–THANK YOU to all that have served our country and sacrificed to do so, including soldiers, spouses, children, and those who create organizations like this one that give so much back. I’m so looking forward to my next trip coming up in the next month or so, and I will definitely let you know where I’m going and update you on the trip and project. SO exciting!!!