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Lowe’s aims to fund local community repair projects as sales streak continues

March 9, 2021, 5:01 AM UTC

Lowe’s has been on a tear since the pandemic was declared a year ago. Revenue last year rose 24.2% to almost $90 billion as housebound Americans refreshed their abodes. The home-improvement chain made enormous strides in e-commerce, and forays into new categories like toys and even exercise equipment found favor with shoppers.

And the chain got a big chunk of that boost from the smaller rural and exurban markets where it has long been disproportionately more present than its chief rival Home Depot. As the pandemic recedes, and spending on home-improvement projects returns to more normal rates, Lowe’s will need such customers to keep its momentum going.

To mark the 100th anniversary of its founding as a hardware store in a small town in North Carolina, Lowe’s is sponsoring community restoration projects in 100 U.S. cities and towns, providing a total of $10 million for projects it will select, such as refurbishing a town’s theater that has fallen into disrepair, or repainting a senior’s home, with work to be completed this calendar year.

“It’s a way to state our long-standing commitment of community service,” Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison tells Fortune. People can make submissions at Lowes.com/100hometowns as of Tuesday, and Lowe’s will award the grants in June. Lowe’s will make employees available on a volunteer basis to advise project winners on the best materials to use and how to execute the projects, giving the home-improvement retailer an opportunity to win new customers in addition to showing its altruism.

The original Lowe’s store in North Wilkesboro, N.C., in 1921.
Courtesy of Lowe’s

The company began life as Lowe’s North Wilkesboro Hardware, started by L.S. Lowe in 1921. As was the case in those days in retail, Lowe’s offered a wide array of items, including some categories that would be unthinkable today, like dry goods, horse tack, snuff products, and even groceries.

While submissions from urban centers will also be eligible, and Ellison expects the final selections to represent a broad cross-section of the country, it’s the connection between a store and its community he is looking to tap, in both Lowe’s approach to business and its philanthropy.

“It’s our way to demonstrate to the customers and community we serve we’re more than just a retail store, that we want to be part of our community,” Ellison says.