Spring breakers invade Tonganoxie, spend their week painting houses
It isn't "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," but for four Tonganoxie households it might as well be.
Seventeen college students from across the country and seven of their managers from College Pro Painters can be seen this week transforming the exterior of the four Tonganoxie homes with a fresh coat of paint.
One of the homes belongs to Pat and Marcia Albert. A number of years ago their daughter, Amanda, applied for a reality TV show makeover for her parents' house but was not accepted. Last week the Alberts were chosen for the College Pro makeover without even applying.
April Dohle, community volunteer and the local liaison for the program, showed College Pro Painters the various houses, and two College Pro business managers made the final decision.
Selection for the project, which is free to the recipients, was based on need with preference given to elderly or disabled. College Pro Painters picks up the tab for the painters and all of their expenses; Sherwin-Williams donates the paint; and Gambino's pizza and Cornerstone Family Worship Church are providing the painters' meals.
"We couldn't have selected a more deserving person," Dohle said of Pat Albert.
Albert moved to Tonganoxie from Colorado Springs after he married Marcia, a Tonganoxie native. Albert instantly became active in the community, coaching softball, teaching high school auto mechanics, volunteering as a firefighter and serving on the city council.
But two years ago, Albert had a stroke that has hindered his ability to work and volunteer.
Albert and his wife have lived in the house at the corner of U.S. Highway 24-40 and Kansas Highway 16 since the 1980s. It has been seven or eight years since the house has been painted.
Albert said he had been working with a contractor with the goal of having the house painted in the summer. Saturday, though, he learned of his selection for the College Pro project. The painters started Monday.
"They didn't tell me about it until it was done, until they already made the decisions to have it done," he said.
Of Dohle, who made the application on Alberts' behalf, Albert said, "She is a wonderful lady who thought we deserved to have it done."
Dohle said Albert fit the selection criteria and he deserved to be rewarded for all his involvement in Tonganoxie.
"He's dedicated his whole life to this town," she said. "He's influenced so many young people in such a positive way."
Dohle said the Alberts and the three others chosen were all worthy candidates.
Dohle described Albert as being "overjoyed" when he received the news and he still retains that excitement. He said, "It's going to look awesome when they're done."
The families selected for the project are not the only ones who benefit from it. Those working on the project feel the benefits as well.
"I am happy to be a part of making a difference in a community," said Dohle, who has volunteered with College Pro for three years.
She said the college students working on the projects are sometimes more excited than the homeowners.
Kaler Hendrix, Chicago, the general manager for the crew working on Albert's home, agreed. He said giving up an entire spring break to work is sometimes difficult, but once the students start working they get excited.
"By the end of the week their whole attitudes change," he said.
Dan Gramann, Milwaukee, volunteered with College Pro two years ago and will become a general manager in August. He decided to "relive the experience" he had volunteering with the organization on spring break 2005 and volunteer again.
"I never felt so rewarded, doing something so selfless," he said. "It pays off better than going to Cancun.
"A paint job is more than a paint job. It is an experience for everyone including the homeowners."
The experience provides those who volunteer with more that just an opportunity to paint. They are given the chance to go into a new community and get to know the people they are serving.
After hearing Pat Albert's story, both Hendrix and Gramann agreed there was no one more deserving for this exterior home makeover than Albert.