Community Action is now accepting applications for Paint-A-Thon houses

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In its 29th year, the coordination of the annual Paint-A-Thon event is changing hands.

Every year since 1998, approximately 500 Burlington residents have donned brushes and old clothes to paint the homes of 8 to 12 families in the Greater Burlington area. That won’t change, but volunteers will see a new face leading the effort.

Starting this year, Jim O’Neil, who has led the effort for the past 28 years, will step aside as he hands the program over to a new leader, Aaron Baltisberger.

“Without our community partners, Community Action and Diamond Vogel, and especially our volunteers, this wouldn’t happen,” said Baltisberger, operations and information security manager for Two Rivers Bank and Trust.

Each year, organizations and businesses from across the community participate in the event aimed at helping low-income families and disabled homeowners without money for a professional paint job to maintain the look of their home.

Baltisberger pointed out that just because someone isn’t physically or financially capable of continuing to paint their home doesn’t mean they don’t have the same pride as a homeowner who can maintain the look of their home. home.

This motivation is why the program specifically targets families who would otherwise struggle to have their homes painted.

“The impact this has on our residents and our neighborhoods is just huge,” said Burlington Mayor Jon Billups. “A lot of people, if they don’t paint their house, it’s not because they don’t want to. It’s because they don’t have the physical capacity or the financial means to do so.

The program began in 1993. At that time, Two Rivers Bank and Trust was looking for a project to help the community. It turns out that a client posted a newspaper article about a Sioux City bank painting houses, wanting to know if Two Rivers might be interested in doing something similar.

Volunteers paint Laurie Powell's home during Paint-A-Thon Burlington/West Burlington on September 8, 2021 in Burlington.

The article landed in the hands of the president of the bank at the time, who gave the idea to O’Neil to investigate how to make something like a Paint-A-thon happen.

Part of exploring the idea was finding community partners, and it wasn’t long before three organizations were hosting Team Paint-A-Thon: Diamond Vogel donated the paint needed for the project , Community Action managed the application process, and Two Rivers Bank and Trust coordinated the project.

With Community Action and Diamond Vogel on board, the next thing O’Neil knew he had to do was secure the volunteer force. To that end, O’Neil hosted a luncheon with community, religious, civic, and industry leaders, to introduce the idea of ​​Paint-A-Thon. O’Neil said all parties were in agreement.

“Because of the incredible partnership we have with community leaders, Paint-A-Thon can take place every year,” O’Neil said.

Over the years, O’Neil said, he and everyone who worked on Paint-A-Thon developed close bonds with the leaders of the 25 participating teams through year-round discussions necessary to facilitate the week-long effort that takes place every September.

“The key to the program is the volunteers,” he said. “It doesn’t work if you don’t have volunteers.”

Billups said Paint-A-Thon is the community’s biggest volunteer event and has been for a long time. He said during this week, Burlington felt different.

“Volunteers, when they work, even if it’s hot and sometimes difficult work, there’s a serenity involved when you talk to them that they know they’ve had an impact on their community,” he said. he declares.

The event takes place during Labor Day week, largely due to the weather.

Iowa’s weather can be unpredictable, but it follows patterns. Painting in May or June could lead to picking a week with lots of rain. July or August is characterized by extreme heat and humidity, and most of the rest of the year can be accompanied by snow. This made September, and more specifically the week after Labor Day, the best choice.

When it was created, O’Neil thought Paint-A-Thon would be something fun that the community would engage in for five or six years only to be replaced by another community-engaged project, but over the course of the near Over the past three decades, Paint-A-Thon has only grown.

Since 1993, 500 volunteers with more than 20 teams have come out each year to paint a total of 530 houses. This equals 8,500 gallons of paint.

First Congregational Church volunteer Kathie Hoth paints Laurie Powell's house during the Burlington/West Burlington Paint-A-Thon on September 8, 2021 in Burlington.

How to register for the Paint-A-Thon

Those interested in being the recipient of a paint job have until July 13 to apply.

The app specifically calls for owners of one-story or one-and-a-half-story homes located within the city limits of Burlington, West Burlington, or Mediapolis. Owner must be over 55, disabled, single parent or veteran.

Residents must also have a limited income. Recipients are chosen by Community Action of Southeast Iowa.

Applications can be picked up at any of the Two Rivers Bank and Trust locations:

  • 222 Main Street N.”
  • 909 S. Roosevelt Avenue;
  • 3200 Sunnyside Ave;
  • 1066 S. Gear Ave., West Burlington; and
  • 105 Main Street, Mediapolis.
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