Two years after he was injured in Iraq in 2003, Army veteran Chris "Joe" Joseph bought a house in Central Islip, N.Y., that turned out to be in almost as bad shape as he was.
Joseph had a back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands and a torn rotator cuff. His house had a leaking roof, broken furnace and a variety of electrical and plumbing problems that made it almost unlivable.
In late 2007, he filled out forms at a Veterans Affairs facility detailing the work his house needed. Last January, workers from non-profit group Rebuilding Together, which receives funding from Searsshld, went to work on his house. Sears employees — and equipment — joined the project in the spring.
Sears has raised $5 million in the past year from employees, vendors and customers to help renovate about 250 homes owned by veterans or the families of active duty military personnel.
Through the holiday season, Sears' home page highlighted this Heroes at Home partnership with the Defense Department and the USO, which also included a wish-list registry for military families. About 30,500 families registered, 10 times the number the retailer expected. Sears sent $100 checks to all of them earlier this month and will send the rest of the donations from executives, employees and customers after Christmas.
Joseph and his wife were Sears and Kmart shoppers before all the work on their house, but they're especially vocal about their support now. Joseph, who is studying audio and engineering production in college, hosts an AM and Internet radio show and talks about the Heroes at Home program whenever he can.
"I was blessed with this good fortune," Joseph says. "I put this information out as much as I can."
Says Sears marketing chief Richard Gerstein: "Cause marketing is a very powerful idea."