Mission volunteers help bring hope to elderly homeowners
by Dustin Brady

(Plain Press, August 2007) Randy Chestnut likes to ask what he calls the “Jesus question.”

Chestnut, director of Cleveland Hope, says that his organization is all about asking people a question that Jesus would ask, “What can I do for you?”

Cleveland Hope, located in the old Gilbert School building at 3274 W. 58th St., is a ministry of Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Missions Board. According to Chestnut, the organization’s mission is to practically bring the love of Christ to Cleveland. “Jesus came to serve and not to be served,” said Chestnut. “We ask what we can do to show that love.”

To learn how they could serve Northeast Ohio, two years ago the leaders of Cleveland Hope met with the Cleveland Department of Aging to ask the Jesus question. From that meeting came Fresh Coat Cleveland.

Fresh Coat Cleveland is a partnership between Cleveland Hope, Sherwin Williams, and the Cleveland Department of Aging. Through the program, volunteers from around the country paint the homes of Cleveland senior citizens and disabled adults at no charge. Cleveland Hope provides the volunteers, Sherwin Williams provides the paint, and the Cleveland Department of Aging provides the seniors.

“It’s been a wonderful partnership,” said Jane Fumich, director of the Cleveland Department of Aging.

Fumich said that before the program began, seniors could get free paint through the city’s paint program vouchers, but they had no one paint their homes. Now she can send Cleveland Hope volunteers to help them.

Once the Cleveland Department of Aging has identified needy seniors through an application process, Cleveland Hope assembles a team of volunteers. Over the last several years, thousands of volunteers have come to Cleveland from across America at their own expense. In July alone, Cleveland Hope hosted teams from several states including Kentucky, Tennessee, and Maryland.

Before volunteers start painting, the Cleveland Department of Community Development trains them in the safe removal of lead paint. Volunteers then scrape, paint, and finish a senior’s home using donated paint and supplies. Usually a team of a dozen volunteers can complete a home in four to five days.

Ray Woodie, pastor of the Coral Hills Baptist Church in Glasgow, Kentucky, brought a team to Cleveland for the week of July 7-13. Woodie said that every member of his team was blessed by the experience. “It’s about doing something for someone, knowing that you’re not getting anything in return,” he said.

Woodie’s team painted the home of 97-year-old Elizabeth Godzich. Godzich said that she was deeply moved by their effort. “If I live to be 200, I couldn’t thank them enough,” she said. “They are just wonderful people.”

Over the last two years, Fresh Coat Cleveland volunteers have painted the homes of 47 seniors. This year, they plan on completing 52 homes.
At almost every home, volunteers go out of their way to do something extra for the senior. Teams have planted rose bushes and vegetable gardens, mowed lawns, and done minor repair work. At the end of the week, they host a neighborhood ice cream party at the newly-painted home.

Seeing church members find ways to minister is the most rewarding part of Fresh Coat Cleveland for Joe Sanson, Missions Director at Cuyahoga Valley Church. “It shows people that they don’t have to graduate from some seminary to be involved in ministry,” he said.

The Cuyahoga Valley Church, which has volunteered several painting teams over the last two years, will take over Fresh Coat Cleveland next year. “I’m very excited,” said Sanson. “Fresh Coat Cleveland is absolutely a great program and this is just the start.”

(see related photos here)


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