A grateful smile of thanks

(It was a delight to read the story below about WinnipegREALTORS® painting its third home in support of Take Pride Winnipeg’s Brush-up Winnipeg. Two of the three featured homeowners in the article, Celia Wilson and Diane Forrest, had their home’s exteriors brightened and touched up by WinnipegREALTORS® volunteers. Celia Wilson’s house may not stick out like a sore thumb anymore but her smile certainly stands out, which makes volunteering to help out so rewarding. Let’s keep that in mind when you see a neighbour who may need some help with their home and property.)
by William Burr
The exterior of a house might not be as important as what’s inside, but a new paint job for a homeowner unable to do it herself can give the house — and the owner — a burst of life.
That's the theory behind Brush-Up Winnipeg, a campaign that will have swarms of volunteers descending on the cracked, chipped walls of the elderly and disabled on Saturday with paint brushes.
Cancer patient Celia Wilson got her house, which used to be what she called “Kermit the Frog green,” painted over with a more austere beige last year.
Wilson’s daughter entered her name into the program without telling her, so when the volunteers arrived out of the blue, she was shocked. “At first, I thought it was a joke,” she said.
Wilson, 50, worked most of her life as a dental assistant in oral surgery, often in rural communities in Nunavut. In 2005, Wilson started getting bad pains all over her body and doctors couldn’t diagnose the problem. She stopped working. Finally in 2008, doctors found cancer spreading throughout her body. Her condition has progressively worsened: she’s had her gall bladder, colon and a segment of her lung removed. Doctors told her she has between six months to two years to live.
But Wilson remains bright-eyed and positive. “I’ve 
always been a happy person,” she said.
She also now has a smart, cleanly painted house.
“The people were so nice and they really worked hard,” she said. “Now I blend in. I don’t stick out like Kermit the Frog anymore,” she said.
On Saturday, June 11, 200 volunteers gave 10 more homes the Brush-Up Winnipeg treatment. Take Pride Winnipeg runs the program, which began in 2006, and is modelled after a similar campaign in 
Nebraska. Since then, it has “brushed up” 40 homes.
Diane Forrest, 72, was one of the lucky homeowners this year. The white stucco walls of her house in St. Vital are cracked and feature two different shades of off-white. When workers raised her house’s foundation a few years ago, they replaced some of the stucco in a 
different shade. Volunteers had already filled in the cracks, and on Saturday they painted a yellow “courtyard brunch” colour over the off-white.
“I didn’t believe it. I thought it was wonderful because I don’t have anyone to do anything for me. I’m a widow and I’m a senior and it's fantastic,” she said.
Ernie Gross, 82, is another lucky homeowner who tried for years to get his white bungalow painted through the program. He last painted it in 1989, something that he's not keen to try again. “I have a 28-foot ladder so you get about 24 feet out of it and there I am, hanging on to the peak of the house trying to paint it at the same time. I’m getting a little leery of climbing up a ladder.”
To learn more about Brush-Up Winnipeg or to 
volunteer, go to www.takepride.mb.ca.
(This article was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press.)