Sometimes a brush stroke is about more than just paint. For homeowners along Burnet Street in San Antonio's Eastside on Saturday, it was about rejuvination.
Volunteers gathered to paint 15 eligible homes as part of the EastPoint Shine Paint-A-Thon in the federally designated Promise Zone. Armed with gallons of paint and altruism, volunteers started early to prime the homes located in the Dignowity Hill Historic District.
To qualify for the improvement project, homeowners had to be at least 60 years old with permanent disabilities and financial hardship. The homes were also located within the Choice Neighborhood boundaries, another federal initiative, managed in part by the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA).
“We are a city on the rise and this is a district on the rise. The Eastide of San Antonio has been neglected for so many years, but we’ve recognized that (during) the last couple of months and focused many resources on this area,” said Councilmember Alan Warrick II (D2).
The Paint-A-Thon is part of a 30-day effort to focus city services in underserved portions of San Antonio including beautification, policing, Metro health services, waste management and Capital improvements to name a few.
While many long-term goals of the Promise Zone status are federal and municipal matters, making EastPoint "shine" was about San Antonians helping themselves.
“This isn’t just a City program,” Warrick said. “It’s all the volunteers and everybody that helps make this happen. You have Goodwill, The Mission Continues, The Boys and Girls Club and the EastPoint volunteers.”
Putting a new face on the neighborhood is more than just mere aesthetics. Recent 2014 crime statics from the City reveal a consistent number of assaults, thefts and burglaries over the past several years. This is a trend that Paint-A-Thon volunteer and Bexar County Criminal District Attorney Nico LaHood aspires to reverse.
“This sends the message that people matter even if they aren’t necessarily family. There are volunteers that didn’t know whose house they were painting till they arrived. What has them here is that spirit of service and people looking after one another,” LaHood said.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, volunteer-centered programs like the EastPoint Paint-A-Thon aim to provide residents of such neighborhood “ladders of opportunity” for future growth.
For LaHood, the bigger picture is about a village raising itself and the standard of what we consider a safe and thriving community.
“This gets people involved,” LaHood said. “I believe community policing works, I believe involvement from the community works. The village is the whole community, not just one part of it. This makes people appreciate what they have, no matter who you are.”
For more than a year The Mission Continues staff and volunteers have worked with underserved veterans, many from the Eastside. Its goal is to give veterans opportunities after their military tenure through community service projects. Funding for such a far-reaching mission comes from private individuals to major donors such as The Wounded Warrior Project, Goldman Sachs, Boeing, Southwest Airlines and Target.
“It’s amazing that the city of San Antonio can come together. At these houses, we have The Mission Continues organization working closely with SAHA. We all just want to give back to the community and make it a better place,” said volunteer Carmel Burnett, who is a veteran herself.
The frenzy of volunteers working at their stations made short work of large sections of previously chipped and faded siding. More than that, it was a chance to demonstrate teamwork between people that were, for the most part, strangers the day before.
“This is a signal that change is coming to the neighborhood. It starts off with a coat of paint, but it quickly becomes something on a deeper level,” Burnett said.
*Featured/top image: Volunteers start work early at various homes during the EastPoint Shine Paint-A-Thon. Photo by Kristian Jaime.