Having a 4-ft.-deep swell of water destroy the first floor of your home is a shock that will never be forgotten, but neither will the response Moonachie, New Jersey, residents Pete and Millie Peterson received when a 36-foot-long Craftsman trailer pulled up at their front door. That, plus some 250 local volunteers wielding Craftsman tools to help rebuild their home from the ruins.
"The Petersons had been forced from their home when Super Storm Sandy hit their area last fall. When we first contacted them, the Petersons didn't want help, but they were so deserving of it. It was the community that initially made us aware of their situation. And thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, we tore out molded studs and drywall, replaced insulation, electrical and plumbing. Pretty much everything that needed to be done to make their home habitable again. The Petersons were back in their home on April 28," says Ryan Ostrom, chief marketing officer for Craftsman. "And they were overjoyed with the outpouring of help to make their home and lives better again."
The Peterson renovation marked the inaugural event of Craftsman's "Make a Difference Tour." It's a 20-plus-stop outreach effort that is taking place now through August, in which Craftsman Club members can help rebuild the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and others in need. Pete Peterson is a Vietnam veteran and was a volunteer firefighter in Moonachie for many years, so their home project was a fitting place for the trailer to set up shop. The timing was also concurrent with National Rebuilding Day.
Ty Pennington, a TV personality and DIY expert, hosted the Petersons' project and got Craftsman's "Make a Difference Tour" off to a spirited start.
Fellow sponsors with Craftsman in this multistate tour are two outreach efforts with similar missions. The first is Sears Holdings "Heroes at Home". The program assists low-income military families with critical home repairs and accessibility modifications. The second sponsor is the nonprofit organization "Rebuilding Together". It works to preserve affordable homeownership and revitalize neighborhoods by providing critical home repair and modification services to those in need at no cost to homeowners. More than 10,000 projects per year are completed by Rebuilding Together.
The combined efforts of both of these organizations have raised more than 17 million dollars over the past six years and renovated some 1,300 homes of veterans and their families. Ostrom shared that during last year's election campaign, Heroes at Home and Rebuilding Together, in conjunction with Craftsman and several other sponsors, built half of a house at the Republican National Convention and the other half at the Democratic National Convention in a community service initiative called "House United." Then, both halves of that home were trucked to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they were brought together and donated to a military family in need.
"We're taking our tools on the road this summer and making a real, lasting difference with them for a number of reasons," Ostrom says. "This is Craftsman's 86th year as a brand, so we're celebrating our Craftsman Club members' passion about their tools: both what they are able to do with their Craftsman tools and what those tools can do to help others. It's a concept we're calling 'Made to Make' because really, this gets right to the heart of why we love tools ... to make things with them."
But the new "Make a Difference Tour" is also a follow-through effort extending from the tremendously positive response received from the "House United" event, Ostrom explained. "We at Craftsman saw that as such a natural fit for what we are about as a brand. How do we take that feeling of wanting to help the larger community and give back? That's what really led to this year's 'Make a Difference' road tour."
Over the coming months, Craftsman's customized trailer, which is stocked with power and hand tools, plus lawn and garden equipment, will be rolling into Philadelphia and Ardmore (Pennsylvania), Washington D.C. and Miami, Florida, in June. July stops will be in St. Louis, Chicago, Milford and Traverse City (Michigan), Minneapolis and Sturgis (South Dakota). The Tour will wrap up in Chicago on Aug. 18. Most of the work will involve renovating homes of veterans. However, some of the stops are intended to be fundraising efforts and to raise awareness of "Make a Difference." Ostrom says all of the locations were determined in consultation with Sears's network of Hometown Stores. The stores are more closely tied with local communities and their leaders, who could make recommendations about veterans in their areas who are in need.
Ostrom reports that the "Make a Difference" trailer will also be making a number of surprise stops. "As we follow the truck on the Tour, we will be asking local leaders where we can provide assistance, whether to veterans or others in the community that need a helping hand with a big home project they can't tackle themselves. So, right now, we really don't know where all of our trailer stops are going to happen. It's part of what makes this Tour very exciting!"
The next stop in Philadelphia will take place at a miniature golf course and is intended to be a fundraising effort instead of a home rebuild. Professional golf commentator Gary McCord is scheduled to make an appearance. "For every hole in one made, Craftsman will donate $100 to Sears "Heroes at Home," up to $10,000."
If you are lucky enough to see Craftsman's big black rig roll into your neighborhood this summer, there is an easy way to volunteer on its scheduled project. Go to craftsman.com and register to become a Craftsman Club member. "We will try to give walk-ups who are interested a chance to volunteer at our 'Make a Difference' stops, but we really want all volunteers to sign up ahead of time through our Craftsman Club."
Ostrom says Craftsman Club members will be able to keep tabs on "Make a Difference" locations and highlights of the Tour, but it's also an opportunity to gain access to Craftsman's online tool community, find out about new innovations coming out and receive discounts on Craftsman tools. There is no cost for a Craftsman Club membership or obligation implied.
But, what happens after August when "Make a Difference" completes its final volunteer stop? Ryan says Craftsman is committed to U.S. veterans, and he wants the "Make a Difference" campaign to extend into the future. He also sees natural disaster response as a continuing avenue for Craftsman volunteers to get involved through "Make a Difference."
"At Craftsman, we've always been and always will be about tools. Making a difference for others isn't something you do in a day, a week or just over a single summer. It should be an ongoing extension of who we are as a brand. We're passionate about tools and how we can use them to give back to others."