October 24, 2012 - Volunteers from Home Depot stores from around Oakland County descended on Lake Orion last week.
They were in town to remodel the home of Sieglinde Leavens who won a Team Depot Foundation grant. Thanks to American Legion Commander Steve Treadway and Home Depot's Alana Hart, the funds secured new carpet, new appliances, new paint and wallpaper, and a new deck equipped with non-slip covering for the walker-wielding Mrs. Leavens.
"Every time I think about it, I cry," Leavens said of the transformation to the home she's known for 20 years.
Led by Hart, Lake Orion's Team Depot works with non-profit groups to identify citizens in need of assistance.
Nominees are interviewed and asked to make a wish-list of repairs. On average, Team Depot donates $10,000 of materials to each approved project.
Hart and 40 Home Depot employees sacrificed their personal time to complete the two-day home makeover project on October 16 and 17. With the aid of a dumpster donated by Waste Management, pizza from Pugh's Party Store, and a storage pod from PODS, Team Depot made short work of the lake front home on Heights Rd.
Team Depot's focus this quarter is on veterans and their families. Leavens is the widow of Korean-era veteran sergeant Kenny Leavens who passed away in May. His wife was a perfect candidate for the Team Depot project.
Team Depot has been doing this kind of community service since the early 1990s and gives about $1.5 million per year in the northern region alone for similar restoration projects.
In Lake Orion, the Boys and Girls Club, NOVA, Pine tree Elementary, and the Orion Art Center have benefited in the past from team Depot's efforts.
After Team Depot finished their work on the , Leavens was escorted into her new digs by daughter Carol. Carol's parents met in Austria in 1953 when her dad was serving in the military.
He grew up in Wisconsin and then enlisted for the Korean conflict through the buddy program, becoming part of a traveling military baseball team that would entertain the troops.
While traveling through Austria, he visited a hospital and met a young Austrian woman in bandages, suffering from wounds suffered in an auto accident. Though he couldn't see her entire face, he "fell in love with my eyes," Mrs. Leavens recounted. "I fell in love with all of him," she said of the strapping, blue eyed American who visited her in the Austrian hospital.
He was a "cantankerous old guy, but we all loved him," daughter Carol recalled, her voice breaking as she held back tears.
Hart and Team Depot have really gone above and beyond," she said. "Alana really got the ball rolling for us."
Carol Leavens said Hart's squad of volunteers did repairs even before the project was approved. This willingness to jump in and help has impressed the Leavens family.
"We can't thank Home Depot and the American Legion enough," Carol said.
"That's what we do at Home Depot," Hart said. "Building relationships and changing lives are our core values."
If you would like to learn more about the Team Depot Foundation, contact Alana Hart at 248-393-9990 ext. 404.