As each fall arrives hundreds of Paint-A-Thon (PAT) volunteers (including Senior Corps-RSVP members) are ready with brushes, scrapers, and rollers in hand, eager to help restore the exterior of local homes greatly in need of a facelift. Days later, when their work is completed, they are rewarded with smiles and hugs from the homeowners.
The annual PAT is a unique community partnership of HandsOn Suburban Chicago, Catholic Charities, and Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley. PAT volunteers paint the exterior of homes owned and occupied by persons with limited financial resources and who are physically unable to paint their homes. Yet, like most of us, they still want to stay in the home and neighborhood they’ve known for so many years.
Catholic Charities serves as the intake Agency and is responsible for screening and review of 24-40 applications to verify financial eligibility. HandsOn Suburban Chicago’s Community PAT program coordinator, Donnie Graham, begins early in the year with the recruitment of over 200 individuals and team members willing to participate in PAT.
Come July Senior Corps-RSVP member Craig Powers steps in as PAT home inspector. After mapping out routes to all the homes, he starts the first weekend in July to do his round of inspections. He arrives at the first home around 8 a.m. on Saturday. Then he has a short conversation with the resident, explaining the PAT procedures and finishes checking out the last home by 3 or 4 p.m. The process starts again Sunday. By the end of the weekend, he’s checked out about 24-30 homes in the ten townships that PAT serves. Craig says smiles and hugs are the best payment he knows.
“What really inspires most volunteers is the interaction with the homeowners,” Craig says. “Volunteers don’t have to know how to paint when they sign up to help. We can easily teach some of the basics and get you involved immediately.”
As anyone who has ever tried to upgrade a home knows, refurbishing involves much more than simply slapping on a coat of paint. Craig has developed a check-list that helps him determine what is needed to get the home exterior back in shape. He inspects gutters; fascia (area just below the gutter); soffit (horizontal piece under the gutter); the body of the house; the window frames; and the shutters. Often hedges and overgrown bushes must be trimmed in order to access the outside walls.
When that’s done, he photographs all four sides of the house and measures to establish the amount of paint he’ll need. Craig then prepares a summary report detailing all the work required for each of the homes that will be painted. After all his reports are assembled he meets with Donnie and a Catholic Charities rep to make the final decisions on which homes will be painted and assign the team of volunteers for each project. Habitat works with Lowe’s Home Improvement to handle the paint tinting and arranges to have the Valspar donated paint delivered to Craig’s home.
Craig takes care of obtaining donations for all the additional materials needed (brushes, scrapers, etc.) He writes to major paint equipment suppliers asking for their “seconds” and other items that can’t be sold in stores, but are still quite usable. These donated paint supply items average $8,000 in value per year. He has obtained over $110,000 during the course of the last 13 years. Once all the material arrives in mid-August, leaders arrive at Craig’s home and are instructed on site safety, homeowner sensitivity issues, how to safely lead volunteer teams, and project preparation. Craig also reviews the home inspection report so team leaders are well informed on the degree of difficulty of their assigned home. Then they’re ready for PAT day in September.
What Craig likes best about working with PAT is knowing that he can improve the lives of roughly twenty-four homeowners a year. “The look on their faces when they come out at the end of the day and see their finished house makes everything we do worth the time and effort,” he says.
While he modestly downplays his role in the process, others know that without his leadership the project could take much longer.
As if the PAT project weren’t enough, Craig also contributes his talents to Rolling Meadows Community Events Foundation, WINGS (domestic violence shelter), and Clearbrook. In fact, when applications were low but teams were available, he suggested Clearbrook’s group homes. They house adults with disabilities in the community so it is keeping with the PAT mission.
His motivation is quite simple and can work for all of us: “Be the change you want the world to be.”
This September, 224 PAT workers, including those in the Senior Corps-RSVP program, gave twenty-four homes a fresh coat of paint and a new life. Volunteers are always welcome and as Craig says “The greatest gift you can ever give is of yourself.”
To volunteer as a PAT worker for next September’s Paint-A-Thon contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Janet Souter, Senior Corps-RSVP Member
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