PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — When most stores and restaurants were shuttered one year ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Home Depot and similar retailers didn’t miss a beat as the industry was declared essential.
Customers flocked to stores to buy supplies for do-it-yourself pandemic-inspired home improvement and gardening projects.
“They were really looking to make their space more comfortable, whether it was for living, learning or working,” said Kelie Charles, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Atlanta-based Home Depot, which is the largest home improvement company in the United States.
According to a company news release, the home improvement retailer finished the fourth quarter of 2020 with $32.3 billion in sales which is a $6.5 billion or 25.1% increase from the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019.
Norfolk State University, Hampton University, and Virginia State University are among the 31 HBCUs competing for grants from $20,000 to $75,000 in Home Depot’s 12-year old Retool Your School program. Collectively, the grants total $1 million, which is double the half-million donated last year.
Over the years, Retool Your School has provided more than 100 sustainable campus improvement grants for 87% of the nation’s HBCUs. Melissa Saunders created the program.
“While Home Depot provides the grant fund, we also provide sweat equity. So we send out our volunteer associates to help the students and the faculty to actually do the projects on campus,” said Saunders.
NSU Vice President Clifford Porter issued a statement to 10 On Your Side that encourages the community to support the program.
“[NSU] encourages the entire Spartan Community, students, faculty, alumni, and friends to vote for NSU and help us support campus improvements on our beautiful, 130-plus acre campus,” said Porter.
In a lighthearted interview, 10 On Your Side’s Regina Mobley, a 1982 alumnae of NSU asked Home Depot reps whether they would once again double the size of the company’s Retool Your School program. Founder Saunders was prepared to be put on the spot.
“We cannot commit to that at this moment but let me tell you we have consistently increased our commitment to Retool Your School and we don’t intend to stop,” said Saunders.
Competitor Lowe’s is marking its 100th birthday by pledging $10 million to 100 neighborhood projects across the country.