Bill Boltz finds meaning in the 'Spirit of Life"

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Bill Boltz finds meaning in the 'Spirit of Life"

By Ken Clark - 02/04/2021

The Lowe's executive VP of merchandising joins an elite group.

Much remains unclear about the 2021 fundraising season for City of Hope. A pandemic has disrupted the logistics — as well as the date — of the Hardware/Homebuilding industry group’s traditional February gala.

Bill Boltz will receive the Spirit of Life Award during a virtual event on May 10.

The virus has even curtailed visitation to the world-famous California disease treatment and research facility, around which the industry has rallied since deep into the last half of the last century.

There’s no trace of hesitation, however, in the 2021 Spirit of Life honoree’s approach to his new role as fundraising leader.

Bill Boltz, the Lowe’s executive VP of Merchandising and 38-year industry veteran, has a long acquaintance with City of Hope from his early days with Sears.

And he has a deep appreciation of its mission. He is one of many whose life and family have been thrown into battle with the disease that City of Hope is committed to beating.

Boltz spoke with HBSDealer about the industry’s unique position as a fundraising machine, and the importance of continuing to fight to find a cure for cancer, even during— especially during — a global crisis.

HBSDealer: Why is this “Spirit of Life” role important for you?
Bill Boltz: It’s personal to me. I lost my dad to cancer, and my mom and sister are both cancer survivors, so it’s touched me in different ways.
To watch the hardware and home improvement industry come together during these types of events and be able to raise millions of dollars to support it – it’s impressive. And the City of Hope has just gotten so many great folks involved.

On the campus of City of Hope, a sculpture shares an inspiring message.

HBSDealer: Many of those great people at City of Hope events are often great competitors during the work week. Do you sense that the gloves come off for charity?
Boltz: It’s great to see the industry come together for this common cause. It’s not unlike how the hardware and home improvement industry tackles natural disasters.
We want to serve our local communities. But when you get competitors and suppliers and different folks in the same room, it’s pretty cool and unique.

HBSDealer: On a 1 to 10 scale of competitiveness, this industry would measure a 10, would you agree?
Boltz: It would be a 10-plus.

HBSDealer: Before the travel restrictions, you were able to visit the campus of City of Hope. What were your takeaways?
Boltz: Yes, I have visited City of Hope’s campus and was struck by just how peaceful it is and the passion of the doctors and staff. It’s one of those visits that you never forget. And that has stuck with me. When Kevin Courtney [City of Hope Senior Executive Director of Corporate Philanthropy] called and congratulated me for being the 2021 Spirit of Life recipient, I reminded him of my trip there and just how touching it was. And I think about it to this day.

HBSDealer: How did you first become involved with City of Hope?
Boltz: This year marks my 38th year in home improvement, and I got involved during the earliest days of my career while at Sears. As I was beginning my career in home improvement, I watched [former Sears Roebuck executive] Marvin Stern and many other home improvement leaders get recognized for this award, and I remember my very first City of Hope event when we gathered in Chicago to celebrate with Marvin. 

HBSDealer: Recent past Spirit of Life honorees Brad Paulsen (HD Supply) and Giles Bowman (Home Depot) fall into the category of competitors, how do you feel about coming together for this outstanding cause?
Boltz: There have been many heavy hitters who have received this award. Bob Tillman, Robert Strickland and Louis G. Herring are all former CEOs of Lowe’s and are on the list and I believe these 3 individuals were the first honorees from the City of Hope.

Lowe's raised more than $1.5 million when it hit the roads and trails for City of Hope.

I’m honored that I’m able to carry that on for Lowe’s. And, as I said, it’s touched me personally because of what’s happening inside of my own family. So, I am excited about being able to make my presentation and get our vendor community rallied and the industry rallied around this cause again, in light of what’s going on with the pandemic.

HBSDealer: In these unusual times, how would you describe the importance of corporate philanthropy?
Boltz: It’s important for our industry to come together to support organizations like City of Hope. Additionally, we must do our part in these unprecedented times to support our associates and communities in near- and long-term ways.
For Lowe’s, giving back to the communities where we live, and work is an integral part of who we are and who we will continue to be.
Being on the frontline of responding to a crisis is in our DNA, whether it’s a natural disaster, community need or global pandemic. To date, we have committed nearly $1.3 billion in COVID-related support for associates, store safety and community pandemic relief. 
And serving communities is part of Lowe’s DNA — whether that’s being on the frontline for a natural disaster or being able to give back to our employees, the first responders, healthcare agencies during the pandemic — that kind of giving is central to our culture.

2021 City of Hope highlights

Please visit cityofhope.org/hhi for information regarding the upcoming City of Hope events.

• Feb. 17: City of Hope Virtual "Behind the Science"

• May 10: The City of Hope 2021 "Spirit of Life" Virtual Celebration honoring Bill Boltz, Lowe's EVP of Merchandising.

We’re excited about what we’ve been able to do. And this is one of those areas where the hardware and home improvement industry rises up and demonstrates who we are and what we do for the communities’ day in and day out. 
It’s exciting to be a part of a company that gives back in this way.

HBSDealer: So, what are your next steps in your role as Spirit of Life honoree?
Boltz: February 17 will be the annual City of Hope Honoree tour. This year will be unique in that the annual tour will be a virtual “Behind the Science” activity, visiting the City of Hope medical campus and hearing firsthand from a few of the doctors who will share their research endeavors. 
Our fundraising doesn’t stop because of this pandemic, the Lowe’s team kicked off our fundraising campaign in December with a virtual endurance activity called “Miles for Hope,” an all-in challenge. 
We asked participants in a peer-to-peer fundraising activity to take to the streets to hike, ride, cycle, peloton, run, jog or swim.
We had more than 200 participants from our vendor community as well as members of our merchant team – each participant had individuals to sponsor each mile of their endurance activity – and I am proud to announce that this campaign kick-off raised $1.5 million, to support City of Hope’s life-saving mission!
Fundraising doesn’t stop because of a pandemic, and it’s probably even more of a priority now than ever before.
The Spirit of Life event is usually held in February, this year I am thrilled to announce that the 2021 Spirit of Life will be a virtual event on Monday, May 10th.
I am looking forward to collaborating with the City of Hope Hardware/Homebuilding team as we build out an outstanding program to present to our industry. 

HBSDealer: Anything else to add?
Boltz: It’s an honor to be able to work for an organization like Lowe’s that supports City of Hope and an industry that continues to be engaged and committed to the lifesaving efforts that the City of Hope stands for and then to be recognized, for me, this is just icing on the cake.

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