A deserving military family walked into a Home Depot last week and left with a $20,000 gift certificate for home repairs.
The store employees, in their signature orange aprons, crowded around the entrance of their Salt Lake City location -- waiting to give the Dilley family, the best Christmas they've had in a long time.
This year the chain launched its first, 'Gift of Good' campaign, a national web-driven campaign to find the most deserving military family to be awarded with the home repair certificate
"This program was inspired by the spirit of giving during the holidays and we thought the most meaningful gift to give is simply helping out a neighbor in need," said Home Depot spokeswoman Nicole Carriere.
A group of "do-it-yourself" and military bloggers took to the web to find a deserving family, Carriere explained. The web-experts narrowed down the military families, relying on a network of diaries, personal accounts and social media.
The group was made up of bloggers "who we've worked with previously, or who we thought would be interested based on the topics they covered," Carriere said. "Many of them hadn't met in person or didn't follow each other before the program and it was great for us to watch them build friendships with each other and form their own mini-community around the program."
The web-experts took months to narrow down the military families, all deserving. They even interviewed local media, peeked into personal networks and looked to other bloggers. The bloggers, one of them an Atlanta resident, told Carriere the decision was incredibly tough but they settled on SSgt. Kevin Dilley, his wife Tyrena and their five kids. Dilley has been overseas three times to Iraq and Afghanistan and right now he's deployed to Greenland near the Arctic Circle.
While he is a world away Tyrena is at home with their kids. Two of their children have spina bifida, a developmental disorder when some vertebrae overlying the spinal cord are not fully formed and remain open. Both kids are in wheel chairs and have undergone multiple surgeries.
"They are very positive, upbeat and humble people – the last people who would ever ask for anyone to do anything for them," Carriere said.
The family lives in an older home in need of a lot of renovation. Volunteers and home repair contractors checked out the home to assess their needs but the initial wish list includes essentials such as roof repair, a new HVAC system, flooring and insulation and handicap improvements such as ramps.
"The community is really rallying around this family to do as much as they can to help – we're extremely excited to kick off the project," Carriere said.