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Paint the Town
Paint the Town

The Story of Someone Touched by Paint the Town

How did you first hear of PTT?

In February of 2009, I received a yellow flyer in the mail asking for Price Hill residents interested in being part of the Paint the Town experience. And did we need our house painted… for free??

I had never heard of Paint the Town, and almost threw the flyer away. I thought painting companies would be calling me long after I sent it in, trying to get my business, or there would be some hidden charges someplace that I would have to pay.

Ultimately, I decided to have another look at it, and found that the application was right on the form. The questions weren’t too personal, mostly relating to the type of house we had, how long we had lived there, and what our annual income was. They seemed like reasonable questions.

I thought there must be a catch, but I finally decided “What have I got to lose?” and sent the application in. I think Valentine’s Day was the cut-off date; seemed like a lucky deadline.

What was the application and interview process like?

After I mailed the application, I waited about a month. Then I got a phone call saying that my house was being considered for Paint the Town, and an interview was scheduled. My hopes were up, and I was a bit nervous. I didn’t want to blow the interview.

Two people dressed casually came by to interview us in early April and explained what Paint the Town was all about. When they took a tour of the outside of the house, they noted that we had a drain just at the end of the driveway and thought it would be good for clean-up, asked if we had any objection to them using the outside hose, and noted any spots they thought might be hard to reach. They took some photos for reference and chatted with my husband and me. The information they gave us was very informative, and most of the questions involved double-checking the type of house we had. I asked if they would paint the trim on our detached garage as well, and they said they would make a note of it.

Just as they were leaving, they asked if they could see a copy of my last Income Tax Report (to prove income). I told them that they could see one if it was necessary, but the amount of income shown on that form was considerably less than what I put on the Paint the Town application. Due to our business, we can defer some income and report it in different years on an accrual basis. On the application, I noted what we need to live on yearly. The representatives were fine with that and told me they didn’t need to see the tax form after all.

I felt very relieved, and thought I still had a good chance of being one of the lucky house owners that would be selected.

About two weeks later, I got the call that we had been selected!!!! I felt like I won the lottery! Houses around here cost around $8,000-$10,000 to be painted, and we were going to have it done for free! What did I do to deserve this? What karmic force was smiling upon me? Should I bake the volunteers cookies or something???

How did the volunteers treat you the day of PTT? Please describe how you felt during PTT.

Well, the process started weeks before the actual day. We had visits from Team Leader Adam to check out how many ladders were needed and how they might organize everything. They even sent someone out a week or two ahead of time to build some braces that would support our patio awning, and a brace to place on the awning to hold a ladder.

Then another visit from Paint the Town to help us choose paint colors and to finalize if our house needed prepping. They also filled us in on what things were to come.

A couple of days before the big event, “No Parking” signs were posted. And then some little paint fairies presented us with gifts! One day, buckets of paint miraculously appeared on our front porch. And then the ladders came. BIG ladders and LOTS of them! They were stacked on the front yard. And finally, the day before, out of nowhere, the Port-O-Let appeared! Then MORE ladders!

Everything was proudly sparkling in our yard like little jewels, patiently waiting for the volunteers to come and work their magic. And to top it all off, we had the official sign from Paint the Town planted into terra firma announcing the sponsor’s name: 3CDC. We were in awe!

That night, I took a walk around the neighborhood, finding all the houses that were participating. It was hard not to single them out. Just follow the Port-O-Let trail! We were giddy with excitement and couldn’t wait for everyone to get here. It seemed I didn’t have to bake cookies after all. Everything was handled by Paint the Town.

OK! The Big Day arrived finally arrived, and Team Leader Adam arrived with his Expert painting crew around 7:00 am to unload the truck and sort through paint and supplies. They began painting the very top of the house — the most dangerous part — before any volunteers arrived at all.

Then, around 9:00 I saw the yellow school bus coming up the street, packed with the good-hearted volunteers that would paint OUR house. I was so excited and grateful! My husband grabbed our videocam to record it, and I applauded as about 20 people stepped off the bus. They were a little sleepy perhaps (after all, it was 9:00 AM on a Saturday), but when they saw my big grin and enthusiasm, they were smiling, too. Bless their hearts—some of them hadn’t done this before and didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t either, but I wanted to show them they were appreciated and make them feel welcome!

I thought there might be some people coming who were forced to by their respective employers—to work on their day off just to get some sort of pat on the back from people at work—but that was not the case. Everybody was friendly, yet very serious about the work they were going to do. Nobody complained! Nobody imposed upon me in any way. Their attitudes of pitching in and helping each other made it clear that they were there for ME.  Soon, everybody got a brush and instructions and started painting. Music was played. Jokes were exchanged.

I’ve never seen anything like it!

Several volunteers asked about the history of the house. They wanted to know what “their house” was all about. There was a father-daughter team. There were friends that came together, and some who came alone. More volunteers arrived throughout the day – about 30 in all. Together they emerged as a new community of neighbors who wanted to make Cincinnati a better place to live. I felt so honored to play host to them.

And the ladders! 15 ladders all over the house! What a feeling to see everyone climbing up and painting our old gray once-white house a pretty white again! It was like seeing Cinderella transformed from ragged clothes into her beautiful ball gown!

The volunteers were awesome. They took care where they put the paint. When I offered to get a stepstool so one of the volunteers (who had an aversion to ladders) could paint a bit higher, she was concerned that she might get paint on it, so said she would only let me offer it if I didn’t mind little paint spatters. They taped up areas with plastic, like the porch and steps for protection. They removed my string lights so they could paint around them. Each painter “owned” the area they were painting and wanted it to look the best it could be. They took great care to paint around the window frames, and even painted over old rusty gutters.

In order to reach some high attic windows, I took two brave girls through the house and up to the attic where they climbed out of the window and crouched in the gutter to paint the outside of the windows. Scary. Safety was always first though and they did a great job! Very brave.

The ladies who were assigned to our peeling back porch had to scrape the ceiling on ladders. That looked like backbreaking work! Not one complaint from them.

Lunch came and went with a whisper. Food was brought in for the volunteers, and they sat on the lawn to eat – picnic style.

Once in a while, I’d hear somebody say, “There’s Donna again with that big smile on her face!” I couldn’t get over it. This was cooperation, selflessness, and community spirit in action!

When time was getting short near the end of the day, they enlisted help from another team a couple of streets over. They had finished their house a little early, so the Target people in red shirts came by to paint the trim on our garage!

Everybody found a way of working with each other.

Things started winding down around 3:30-4:00. Paint brushes were cleaned over the drain in the street, belongings were packed up, the yard was cleaned up, our group photo was taken, and good-byes were said.

One volunteer announced, “We’ll see you next week for the 2nd coat!” Everyone laughed. But wouldn’t you know it, the Team Leader and expert painters came back the next week for touch-ups! They came back at other times to remove the braces they built, and to get the ladders, extra paint and Port-O-Let out of the yard.

This whole process reminds me of Barn Raisings in the pioneer days. If someone needed a new barn or just moved in and needed a house built, all the neighbors would come over and pitch in and get it done in no time.

Where has the community spirit gone for doing things like that? I’ll tell you: it’s alive and well at Paint the Town!

Did PTT change your life? If so, explain.

How could an experience like this NOT change your life?

Not only does my house look beautiful, it is now more valuable. Having the house painted brings a whole new dimension to our part of the street. Neighbors stopped by to see how it was going, and they got inspired to spruce up their homes and yards, too. When we see our house now, we don’t feel embarrassed about the rain streaks on our aluminum siding. We want to improve it even more. It’s a proud thing to say we live in the White House now!

But the most important thing that changed in my life from the Paint the Town experience, was my attitude. Regular people, like you and me, can make a neighborhood come back to life. Seeing community spirit in action is awesome! People can make the neighborhoods of Cincinnati beautiful again. The sponsors who paid for all of this will be remembered forever! That advertising goes a long way. And working together can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Just one Saturday. A lifetime of improvement!

Would you recommend that others apply to be considered for PTT?

All of my relatives and neighbors are asking “How do I get in on this?”

Jeez Louise… what is there to lose? Apply! You might be one of the lucky ones like me to go through this experience and get a beautiful facelift for your home! No strings attached. Just a beautiful experience!

By the way, where do I sign up to paint somebody’s house??? Time to give back to Cincinnati!