Despite sparse help, volunteers spruce up three city homes

Neal Dodd and Pat White put some finishing touches on a home at 101 22nd Street as part of the Fort Madison Paint-A-Thon Thursday afternoon. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


FORT MADISON – Fort Madison Partners’ annual Paint-A-Thon is winding down…. or wrapping up, whatever your favorite colloquialism, but the bottom line is that because of a third year of volunteerism, the city has three nicer homes.

Fort Madison Partners organizes the event each year and Executive Director Tim Gobble said the COVID pandemic resulted in lower volunteer turnout this year.

“Our volunteer numbers are down. Some industry numbers were down and the hospital couldn’t send anyone this year, but our timelines are still good.”

But several sponsors and volunteer groups sent people to make sure the work still got done.

Gobble said two of the homes had siding on them so they didn’t require as much labor. One of the homes was a wood sided home and required more prep.

Gobble said he put the Union Presbyterian Church group to work on the home with the wood siding and used the less volunteer hours on the other two homes.

Volunteers with Union Presbyterian Church sit with Mary Peacock, far left seated, outside her home that was part of the Fort Madison Partners Paint-A-Thon. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“Union Presbyterian Church usually has a good core group that I knew would be able to handle that extra work. It needed a little more work than these other two did,’ Gobble said.

That home located a 101 22nd Street, owned by 99-year-old Mary Peacock had volunteers from the church working on it since Monday..

One of those volunteers was Sue Spencer, who’s been a part of Paint-A-Thon’s in Burlington and Fort Madison.

“My husband and I have helped with the Burlington Paint-A-Thon through the years and when they started it here three years ago we just called and volunteered and helped with a home.”

She said last year she went to her church and told the congregation they needed to be a part of the effort.

“It’s a wonderful project. you can sit and talk and socialize. We really needed that this year,” she said.

She said the church has an older congregation, and that is a hindrance to getting volunteers, but this year it was a bit tougher with the COVID awareness still a part of people’s daily lives.

“I always tell them – when they say they’re old and can’t climb a ladder – ‘but you can clean up, or you can go get things, whatever’. It’s good to get out. And you know what, when you’re all done it makes you really feel good,” Spencer said.

“I would like to see every church in town get a group of 8 to 10 or whatever and help. You just feel really good when you’re done.”

Gary Spencer said this year was very important to keep the project going.

“This is only the third year and if it doesn’t continue it will fizzle out. So this was an important year to keep it going,” he said.

The Paint-A-Thon takes place every year in June with homes selected based on certain criteria of income, ownership, and other qualifiers.

Sue said there was conversation about cancelling the event this year, but she said even if the project had to be just one home this year, it would be better than cancelling.

“Even if we did just one home, it would be easier to keep it going that to try to restart the program after not doing it a year.”

The Paint-A-Thon volunteers also repainted a home at 1923 Avenue L and 3207 Avenue I.

The work is shouldered mostly by volunteers from the community, with help from Community Action of Southeast Iowa, and with sponsorships from Kempker’s True Value & Rental, Iowa Fertilizer Company, Climax Molybdenum, Scotts Miracle Gro, Fort Madison Community Hospital, Connection Bank & Insurance, Midwest One Bank, KLM Realty, Lee County Bank, Farmers Savings Bank and ConAgra.

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