Local volunteers lend a hand, a brush

This Arden Hills home was one of two painted by teams from Land O'Lakes, Inc. during the Metro Paint-A-Thon. Paint team leader Vern Pearson estimates it took about 75 volunteer hours to prep and paint the home. The second home, located in Roseville, took an estimated 90 hours over two weekends to complete. (submitted photos)

Teams paint homes in Arden Hills and Roseville

Over one of the best weekends of summer for city festivals, trips to the cabin and hanging out at the pool, 18 volunteers took on a task only Tom Sawyer could convince someone is fun: painting a house.

The two volunteer teams from Land O’Lakes that prepped and painted homes in Roseville and Arden Hills were part of the Metro Paint-A-Thon, a 30-year-old program run by the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. The Paint-A-Thon helps low-income seniors and the physically disabled stay in their homes longer. Since its creation in 1984, the initiative has painted more than 6,350 homes in the metro area.

While Saturday, Aug. 2, was official “paint day,” a great deal of work goes into preparing the homes to be painted. Paint-A-Thon representatives consult with the homeowners, evaluate the difficulty of the paint job, and crews also prepare the home to be painted, sanding, priming, power-washing and repairing them as needed.

Using supplies including brushes, tape and paint donated by local businesses and churches, a prep team led by John Nelson, a continuous improvement manager at Land O’Lakes, and a paint team led by swine nutritionist Vern Pearson made the two homes look as good as new.

Houses matched to teams

Each year, Paint-A-Thon coordinators accept applications from January to mid-April, GMCC senior services coordinator Molly 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, an exterior paint consultant 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. The consultant will also also suggest color schemes based on the available tints.

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.

Team leaders then must go about 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. Nelson led a prep team on July 30 and 31.

Pearson, who has been leading the Land O’Lakes paint team for 12 years, said he chose to paint Aug. 2 because it’s “the least likely day to rain in Minnesota.” The volunteers arrived to work on the home as early as 7 a.m. and stayed until 5 p.m., and then returned the next day to complete another half day’s work. The team went back to finish the job Aug. 9.

Pearson estimates between prep and painting, the Arden Hills home took about 75 hours, and the Roseville home about 90.

One of his favorite things about the Paint-A-Thon is the fact that the larger community benefits when just one home is painted.

“I like the way it improves the neighborhood and how appreciative the neighbors are,” Pearson said. “Some of the houses are in really bad shape.”

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 jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

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