Transform homes, lives with Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful

Staff writerMay 28, 2013 

As summer approaches and opportunities for volunteering in the community expand, Amy Allison is pitching her cause – Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful.

“For one thing, it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “Working as part of a team you can have a good time. You make an impact right away, and you can see the impact. You transform someone’s life, their home.”

Since 1985, the program has painted 2,082 homes, all owned by low-income senior or disabled people in Pierce County. This year, the goal is to paint 60 more – 50 in Tacoma, 10 in Lakewood.

In years past, the paint jobs covered a broader swath of the county, but funding changed in 2013. Like so many programs Pierce County funded throughout the years, Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful saw money dry up.

“This year, the money simply wasn’t there,” said Allison, the director of community mobilization for Associated Ministries.

Two cities, Tacoma and Lakewood, maintained funding.

For weeks now, the program has been fielding both volunteers to do the work and homeowners who want their houses painted.

“Last year we painted 50 homes,” said Megan E. Shea, a community specialist with Associated Ministries. “In the past, the requirements had to do with income level and age. This year, that’s changed to only income level.”

So far, Shea said, the program has 47 applicants in Tacoma, seven more in Lakewood. Property owners should still apply because some homes won’t make the cut; they’ll require more elbow grease than a volunteer crew can do.

“Our crews will scrape and pressure wash the exterior, prime it and paint it,” Allison said.

There are income formulas for qualifying:

• A family of two would qualify if their income was $44,950 or less.

• A family of five would qualify if their income was $60,650 or less.

While Paint Tacoma-Pierce still needs houses, the bigger need is for volunteers to do the work. Painting begins in July and runs through August, and volunteers must be willing to commit more than one day.

“Anyone can do it. If you’re 16 and older, you qualify,” Shea said. “Each crew has an expert checking how they’re doing, and each crew does one house. Because we’re scraping and pressure-washing one day, then priming another, then painting, it’s usually a couple of weekends to finish the job.”

Crew sizes are between 15 and 20 volunteers. People can sign up as a whole or partial crew.

“We’re flexible,” Allison said. “You want to finish the job in three Saturdays, that’s fine. You want to work weekdays, that’s fine, too.”

So far the project has drawn 24 crews and another 22 individuals – about half of what’s needed.

Deadlines are listed on the website: May 17 for homeowners, May 31 for crews. Ignore them.

“We’ll be taking applicants until we have everything we need,” Allison said.

Allison is new to Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful, coming aboard in January. Shea was part of the work a year ago, and she enjoyed painting.

“We’re trying to help eliminate blight, make the community more beautiful,” Shea said. “It’s like the Christmas-lighting effect – someone in the neighborhood puts up a display and everyone else goes along, and pretty soon the whole street is lit up.”

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