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Painting Project Is Well Worth Imitating : * Sprucing Up Homes of the Elderly in Anaheim Helps the Community as a Whole

For the fourth consecutive year, Anaheim has benefited from a worthwhile project known as “Paint Your Heart Out.” It is a good example of a partnership of government money, corporate donations and public service by volunteers helping those who needed a hand.

This month, the city’s Community Development Department rounded up 1,000 temporary painters to put a new coat on 47 homes owned by elderly residents who either are disabled or have a small income. For many homeowners, the painting probably was a chore they did themselves in past years. But it is not as easy climbing the ladder to the eaves when you are 70 as it was at 30. And even a little inflation keeps driving up the cost of gallons of primer and paint, and the scrapers and brushes needed to overhaul an exterior. That can put materials out of reach when you are living on a fixed income.

One woman who saw her house spruced up called it a “real lifesaver.” She is 60 years old, living with two adopted daughters aged 11 and 13, and said she worked with disabled people about 20 hours a week, earning $4.25 an hour.

Churches, schools and businesses have helped publicize the event each year and turned out parishioners, students and workers to take part. A co-chairman of the event, Keith Olesen, pointed out the value not just to one house but to a whole neighborhood. Taking what might be the worst-looking house on a block and turning it into the best-looking one can cause neighbors to fix up their own residences, he said. That fosters pride in a community, a needed ingredient.

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The other co-chairman, Carolyn Griebe, said the group received $25,000 in federal grant funds and at least twice that much in donated labor and paint, tools, lumber and other supplies. Griebe estimated that “Paint Your Heart Out” has put in more than $500,000 in neighborhood improvements to 156 homes in the city since it started in 1991.

A number of volunteers over the years have said they wanted to “give something back to the community.” It is an admirable sentiment and one that should become more widespread. Just about all the workers held 40-hour jobs during the week and had families they would love to spend more time with on weekends. But for this one day, they set aside their own desires and helped others with houses needing painting, or windows needing glazing, or driveways needing repairs. It helped the homeowners and the whole city. It deserves to be imitated elsewhere.


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