UMES wins 2013 Home Depot 'Retool' grant

  • Monday, May 6, 2013

    Money comes from The Home Depot "Retool Your School" competition

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD. - (May 6. 2013) - UMES will receive a $10,000 grant from the 2013 "Retool Your School" campus improvement contest sponsored by The Home Depot.

    Murphy Hall on The OvalLeon Bivens, UMES' physical plant director, said the money will be used this summer to spruce up the Student Services Center, Murphy Hall and the Clusters student housing complex with new paint and other minor repairs.

    The university was among 12 historically black institutions that qualified for a $10,000 grant from the Atlanta-based home improvement retailer that started the Internet-based competition in 2010.

    Some 70 HBCUs had to describe two projects that needed funding and then were encouraged to get their supporters to vote online daily and to use social media to publicize and promote the event. This was UMES' first year as a contestant.

    UMES supporters cast more than 250,000 votes over an eight-week period.

    Leon J. Bivens, physical plant director"The UMES community was terrific," Bivens said. "I appreciate everyone's efforts. They kept us in the running to the very end."

    The $50,000 grand prize winner was Oakwood University in Birmingham, Ala.

    A separate category, the $25,000 "Campus Pride" grant, went to Knoxville College in Tennessee, which The Home Depot judged had the strongest combination of online voting and social media activity.

    Grants awarded to UMES, Oakwood and the other institutions were based on a ratio of consumer voting and judging by an advisory board panel, according to the competition website.

    If UMES had won the grand prize, the money would have been used campus-wide to replace fluorescent lights with energy-efficient LED lighting.

    Nonetheless, UMES President Juliette B. Bell described herself as "elated" by the news the university had qualified for a grant.

    "I want to commend the students, in particular, for everything they did to support the university and motivate the rest of us to get involved," she said. 

    Walter Woods, UMES' assistant director of alumni affairs, said alumni also enthusiastically embraced the online voting campaign and called it a unifying activity that inspired graduates to demonstrate their loyalty to their alma mater.

    Bivens, who has worked at UMES for 35 years, said he is hopeful the excitement generated by this year's competition will carry over to 2014.

    The competition is a campus improvement grant program created by The Home Depot, the Retool Your School website says, and is designed "to help HBCUs make enduring improvements to their campus and facilities." The company awarded $195,000