As a recruiter at Lowe’s, I talk to prospective job candidates almost every day, and hear firsthand what they consider when evaluating a potential employer. Candidates are looking for more than a paycheck and usually inquire about our company culture. We are often asked questions like, “Does your company do more than try to make a profit?” Or, “How does your company give back to the community?” A little while ago, a colleague wrote about Lowe’s Community Relations programs to answer some of those questions. Just recently, I got to experience one of these programs firsthand.
For those of you who don’t know Lowe’s purpose, it is a pretty simple but powerful goal: “To Help People Love Where They Live.” It’s a message that encompasses giving back.
Let’s take a look at the first part of this message: “To Help People.” For the longest time, I thought about volunteering and made excuses that I was too busy outside of work and family obligations to do anything. Well, I don’t have that excuse anymore. Starting last year, Lowe’s began giving all full-time U.S. employees with one year of continuous service paid time off “To Help People” at nonprofit organizations. Yes, I can take up to eight paid hours during the year to go out and volunteer. Pretty crazy, huh? Who would think a company would pay me to volunteer because they think it is important to be involved in the community and to help others?
With no excuses anymore, I decided to take advantage of Give Back Time by volunteering at the Angels & Sparrows Soup Kitchen in Huntersville, just down the road from Lowe’s corporate office in Mooresville, North Carolina. This local nonprofit was established in 2007 to feed the hungry in the North Charlotte area. I didn’t have any contacts there, so I just went to their website and wrote to them about volunteering. Immediately, one of their own volunteers wrote back and said they had an opening in the kitchen that week. Great, I was thinking I could help create some kind of awesome cuisine. The day I arrived, I met the founder, Sandy Tilley, and she said I would be assigned dishwasher duty. Maybe she already knew I was a professional dishwasher at home with a big family. I can’t seem to ever get away from those dirty dishes. Oh well, it’s all for a good cause, right?
As I started scrubbing away, I noticed a calendar on the wall that kept track of all the people who came to the kitchen daily. There was an average of over 100 people each day who visited the kitchen for just one month alone. I found out later from Sandy that they made 46,000 meals in 2015 and 53,000 meals in 2016. That’s a lot of mouths to feed!
I peered out through the kitchen between all the pots and pans, into the dining area and noticed all kinds of people there eating, young and old, and all races. Some ate as families, and some ate alone. Sandy said that any hungry person who walks through those doors will never be turned away. No one is immune to hunger.
In the midst of the clanging of dishes, I noticed all the volunteers had their heads down with smiles on their faces, ready to serve. They operated as a quickly organized pit crew, springing to action to serve meals. This was where I started to think of the middle part of our company purpose, “Love.” Those volunteers were showing love to others who may be down on their luck. A warm meal to someone in need can bring some hope to someone’s day and let them know that there are people in this world who care.
As I was complaining to myself about getting a bad case of dishpan hands, I was humbled by what I was seeing around me. Which leads me to the last part of Lowe’s Purpose: “Where They Live.” Some of the folks who entered that kitchen to eat that day don’t have a physical and permanent home. They live from place to place, anywhere that can provide them shelter for the night. There is an old saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Those volunteers showed heart and treated the hungry with respect and dignity. It didn’t go unnoticed either. That day, one homeless couple gave a note to Sandy and the rest of the volunteers. Sandy shared it with me as well, since I was a Lowe’s volunteer.
“When we came the first time, we were fed and shown so much love, and we could tell your heart came from heaven above. We were treated like fortune and fame, and all the other people was treated the same. We can’t thank you enough for all that you do, and giving us a ray of hope, too. So when you feel you are not doing enough, just look at our smiles when we’re here in times that are rough.”
After reading that card, my day in the soup kitchen was so worthwhile. Volunteering helped me realize that I am a part of something bigger. Our company’s Give Back Time is truly putting our purpose into action.
If you are interested in volunteering or donating to Angel & Sparrows, you can learn more at angelsandsparrows.org.
When he is not washing dishes, Matt Furr is an enterprise recruiter at Lowe’s and staffs digital talent for the e-commerce and omni-channel areas, security professionals for IT, and technical and marketing talent for the Iris smart home team. He’s been with Lowe’s since 2012.