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Volunteer teams paint NSP, Maplewood homes
Paint-A-Thon helps seniors, disabled stay in homes longer
If you live in a community in the Twin Cities, chances are good you’ve seen a house that has been painted by a Paint-A-Thon team. Over the last 29 years, Paint-A-Thon volunteers have painted 6,300 homes in the seven-county metro area.
Saturday, Aug. 3, was the official “paint day” for the 60 teams that participated in this year’s Paint-A-Thon, a program offered through the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. Now in its 29th year, the program caters to low-income seniors and the physically disabled, who may not be able to paint their homes on their own.
Nearly 1,500 volunteers donated almost 12,000 hours to the Paint-A-Thon this year. In addition to the hours spent prepping and painting, all the paint, brushes, tape and other supplies are donated by local businesses like Valspar Corporation, 3M, Graco Inc., Manus Products, Inc., Bercom, G&K Services and Wooster Brush Company.
Two local homes were part of this year’s Paint-A-Thon, one in North St. Paul and the other in Maplewood, GMCC senior services director Molly Chandler said. The North St. Paul home was painted by the 3M/Novation Credit Union team, and the Maplewood home was painted by the team from St. Pius X Catholic Church in White Bear Lake.
Houses matched to teams
Each year, Paint-A-Thon coordinators accept applications from January to mid-April, Chandler said.
“We ask that a homeowner reapplies each year,” she explained. “We update the homeowner application yearly to keep the most current income eligibility criteria listed. We do save applications from year to year just in case we need to match a team in a certain area where a homeowner didn’t apply during the current year.”
After a homeowner has applied, exterior paint consultant Neil Mortensen will visit the home to evaluate the amount of preparation and repair work that is required, estimate how much primer and paint is needed and rate the homes on a scale of 1-5 for difficulty and need for painting. He also will also suggest color schemes based on the available tints from Valspar.
Then, this information is relayed back to team leaders, who determine if the home is a good fit for their team of approximately 10 to 40 volunteers. If yes, the team leader then gets to deliver the news to the homeowners.
“The first thing we do (as a team leader) is make contact with the homeowners (in June),” 3M/Novation Credit Union team leader Gordy Kircher, 68, said. “All they know is that their home was inspected two or three months ago. When they get that first phone call, they’re usually very, very thankful and surprised.”
The team leaders then go about the task of organizing volunteers and picking up the supplies from the businesses that donate them. Chandler says almost all the supplies are donated, but some volunteers choose to bring their own ladders or drop cloths.
Hundreds of volunteer hours
Usually during the week before “paint day,” teams will go out to the homes to do some prep work, including scraping, sanding and power washing. Some homes also require some minor repair work.
St. Pius team leader Joe Koscianski, 67, says his team does the prep work the Monday before paint day.
“There’s always going to be some sanding and priming to do before you can paint,” he said. “We try to get as many people as possible to help with the prep work.”
Kircher’s 20-person team did prep work a full week before paint day on July 27.
“There’s some minor repair work that needs to be done, like fixing rotten wood that can’t be painted and power washing the house,” he explained.
Both Koscianski and Kircher say that prep work can take about seven hours. Then, the crew returns on paint day, which is usually a full day’s work, depending on the size of the house and number of volunteers.
“We had 29 people this year-we’ve been very fortunate the last couple years to have so many people,” Koscianski said. “This year’s house was a little smaller, but last year we were painting a huge house in Mahtomedi, so we needed a lot of help.”
Koscianski estimates that this year he spent about 15 hours total on the Paint-A-Thon, but that number could “double or triple” if the house were larger.
Although he had not done an official count, Kircher estimated his team was made up of about 20 people, and it took about seven hours each day to complete prep work and painting.
‘Very gratifying’ work
The selfless donation of time is personally rewarding for many Paint-A-Thon volunteers, who choose to participate year after year.
Koscianski has participated in the Paint-A-Thon for about 25 years, and Kircher has been doing it for 27.
“It’s very gratifying to do this, and I guess it’s the Christian thing to do,” Koscianski said. “The homeowners are so grateful, and you get such a sense of satisfaction.”
Kircher echoed the same sentiment.
“We enjoy doing it and helping out. The volunteers have fun, and we get to help people stay in their houses longer,” he said.
And not only do the volunteers feel good about it, but so do the homeowners.
Long-time North St. Paul residents Norm, 84, and Milly, 81, own the home that Kircher’s team painted this year.
Char Eckert, their daughter, said the couple had applied in the past, but was denied because there weren’t enough teams.
But this year, the stars aligned and their home was chosen.
“Things were really great,” she said. “The volunteers were very professional and well-organized, and they cleaned everything up. They painted the garage, the shed, the fences - everything!”
“It’s the same color, but you could tell when they were painting it. The whites are whiter, and the gray is deeper,” she added.
Koscianski says that unfortunately, many people who need this type of assistance have not even heard of the Paint-A-Thon.
“There are a lot of people out there who need this done and either don’t know about it or don’t want to accept it because they think there’s someone out there who needs it more,” he said. “But it’s got to go to someone.”
Chandler says the program is actively seeking more volunteers from all communities. For more information about the Paint-A-Thon, visit www.paintathon.gmcc.org.
Johanna Holub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7814.