Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Paint Your Heart Out, Punta Gorda

Nancy Johnson
Paint Your Heart Out, Punta Gorda is the type of event that reminds me what a special community I live in. Volunteers spend a day painting the exteriors of homes owned and occupied by locals who are indigent, disabled, veterans or seniors. The event is organized by TEAM Punta Gorda and Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity. (Quite aptly, "TEAM" stands for "Together Everyone Achieves More.") 

Although this is the fourth year of Paint Your Heart Out, it was my first time participating. I painted with the recently organized Isles Yacht Club Women, a group dedicated to working on one-off events in support of our community. We--along with the other painters and organizers--gathered bright and early last Saturday morning to get our assignments and shore ourselves up with coffee and doughnuts. The parking lot was overflowing with the 135+ people who had volunteered to help out .

Pre-Paint Job
Nancy Johnson, CEO of TEAM, talked a bit about the "ethic of service" in Punta Gorda. "The community turns out every year because that's the type of community we are," she said.

Mike Mansfield from Habitat chimed in as well, saying, "It takes a village, and the village showed up again today." 

With that, we were off to the eight homes awaiting us.

When I arrived at the house we had been assigned to paint, the project seemed a bit daunting. The house was in serious need of a good paint job and some general TLC.

Roy, our site supervisor, walked us around the house and identified the areas to be treated as trim (which would be painted white to provide a contrast to the sandstone beige of the house). He also explained that the brick side of the house could not be rolled because of the deep grooves between the bricks. (As it turned out, the bumpiness of the stucco on the entire house required either some serious elbow grease for painters using a roller or a second coat with a brush in order to ensure an even coat.)

Contemplating the bricks
There was no allocation of responsibilities. "This is your project," Roy said. "You have to own it. That's why it's called 'paint your heart out.'" I was a bit nonplussed, but more experienced volunteers grabbed their tools of choice, selected a spot and got to work. 

Truthfully, it didn't take long to make some headway once the dozen or more of us got started. I used the opportunity of painting next to Nancy to find out a bit more about the program. She explained that TEAM's job is to provide the volunteers and organization and to raise necessary funds. Habitat for Humanity, together with local builders and contractors, provides the expertise required for the project. The homes to be painted are nominated by local pastors and other community leaders. They are then reviewed to determine their eligibility. Some homes are too fragile to withstand the power washing required. As a bonus, the homeowners also get a brand new mailbox painted by an artist from the Visual Arts Center. 

The end is in sight
As the morning progressed, I realized that I wasn't well-suited for every job. I tend to slather on the paint, which made doing areas where the house proper met the trim a bit messy. Ditto for rolling the ceiling of the car port. (It took a couple of days to get the paint out of my hair.)

But that's the great thing about working with a group. Some people were really good at the things I wasn't, so I happily relinquished those jobs in favor of something else.On the plus side, I found I'm not nervous at all about standing on a ladder.
IYC Women

As noon approached, people who had already completed painting their homes arrived to help us wrap up. I was impressed with their excess energy. We were scheduled to be done around 1:00, and we were essentially finished by then. Some people stayed longer to put on the finishing touches. I, however, headed out. Despite a lunch break, fatigue was setting in. But it was definitely that good kind of tired, where you feel you've done something positive. 

Plans are already underway for next year's event. For those not in the area, Punta Gorda is not alone in hosting a community Paint Your Heart Out day. So if this type of volunteerism sounds like fun, keep your eyes open for an opportunity near you.

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