Alton Telegraph April 26, 2017
ALTON — Once again, Marquette Catholic High School seniors are opting to give back to the community instead of taking a far-away mission trip on spring break.
“This is our 13th year of doing a mission project, and the second year it has been local,” said Paula Mattix-Wand, Marquette campus minister. “They had a wonderful time last year and the (2017) seniors wanted to do it again.”
This week, majority of the 109 students were busy painting five homes in Alton and East Alton, plus a building at the Andy Simpson Tennis Complex at Gordon F. Moore Community Park, in cooperation with Pride Inc.’s Bucket Brigade. Other seniors were busy inside a warehouse, packaging rice-based, dry casserole ingredient packages, assembly-line style.
“They can be shipped overseas to disaster areas or Third World countries,” said Mattix-Wand.
Twelve of the students this week are transforming exterior of Elba Sharp’s house and her L-shaped wooden picket fence with a coat of fresh, tan paint, to the 83-year-old woman’s delight.
“I think they are doing a great job, it is great they have volunteered to do community service,” Sharp said. “It is amazing it is free, they didn’t let me raise a hand to help. It’s a great bunch of kids.”
Widowed 28 years, Sharp said she is unable to get on a ladder to paint her small aluminum-sided house on Aberdeen Avenue in which she has lived 55 years. She said it has been 17 years since she had a contractor paint her home.
The seniors also power washed Sharp’s driveway, trimmed bushes and did some other yard work.
“It’s going real good, they will get most of it done today and do touchups tomorrow,” said Theresa Harter, a parent volunteer. Three of the Marquette students — all from Florissant, Missouri — said they enjoy their service project.
“I’m glad to give back to the community, it is nice to see people in need get the help they deserve and to make the community a better place all around,” said Brayden Kallmbah, 17, as he and Jon Stewart, 18, scraped old paint off the fence.
“I think it’s good we are helping out people,” Stewart said. “It is always good to help people in need and do what’s right for the older generation.” He said he didn’t mind foregoing a senior trip. “I think this is better, we are actually helping people.”
A few feet away, Ketoura Ngwa, 18, was rolling paint across the side of Sharp’s attached garage. “I love painting, but I’m only good on the inside,” she said, as this was the first time she painted a building exterior. A classmate painting nearby, though, assured Ngwa she was doing a fine job.
Ngwa said she felt good painting Sharp’s home. “It makes me feel we are actually helping people in need.”
Dale Neudecker of Godfrey, founder and organizer of Bucket Brigade, said the Marquette seniors’ work is a good kickoff to the 30th annual paint-a-thon of homes, with bulk of the painting scheduled for May 13.
“It was a great day for painting, they did a beautiful job, it’s amazing what a group of kids can do in one day,” he said Monday. “There are 10 to 12 kids in each location and they are getting a lot of work done and interacting with our senior citizens. Several houses in the area now look like someone just moved in. We are very proud of them getting out and making improvements in the community.”
Each year, Bucket Brigade volunteers paint homes from Jerseyville to South Roxana belonging to people who cannot do the work themselves or afford to pay to have the houses painted. The homes must be one-story and owner-occupied. Besides beautification organization Pride Inc., The Telegraph and Sherwin Williams Co. also are sponsors. The paint company donates 300 gallons of paint each year, then sells any more cans Bucket Brigade needs at cost.
Those five houses and public building that the students are painting this week bring number of structures painted through Bucket Brigade to 1,413 — so far.
Meg Miller, Marquette director of advancement, said students also are involved in projects with Lovejoy Elementary School, Riverbend Head Start, Crisis Food Center and Hayner Public Library, among other groups.
Reach Linda N. Weller at 618-208-6450 or on Twitter @Linda_Weller