Come Saturday evening one very worthy senior citizen in northwest Tampa was able do something most homeowners take for granted — close and lock a door.
Though a series of different, unfortunate events have led to hundreds of homes being cited throughout Hillsborough County, a group of 62 like-minded people gathered on April 17 for the 27th anniversary of Paint Your Heart Out Tampa.
Through a stringent application process, deserving homeowners were selected to be recipients of the hard work and talent of local volunteers. The homeowners were low-income Tampa seniors who simply need a helping hand to restore the appearance of their homes.
This year 90 homes received a fresh coat of paint from Paint Your Heart Out Tampa volunteers and sponsors.
At Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry campus, mathematics professor Kathryn Pantelis has helmed the campus’s volunteer group as its team co-captain almost as long as the event has taken place — 25 years.
She shared about the event in her classroom and on the bulletin board outside her office. The college’s student government talked about the event at its last couple of meetings, meeting with club advisers and presidents.
“Between faculty, student government and the students themselves, word gets out,” Pantelis said.
First-year volunteer and student Josh Grissom agreed.
“Mrs. KP sent a paper around about volunteering and it sounded like a fun time,” he said. “We’re having a great time volunteering.”
Pantelis even recruited her parents, Chris and Jeannie Demas. They have continued to be a part of her team for the entire 25 years.
“I remember the first year I came out here — it’s the whole Pantelis family. This is something they dedicate their lives to — community service,” said math professor and longtime volunteer Sherry Sippel. “If I can help them out a little bit every year, it’s my pleasure. To stand here in the morning and then see a whole new house in the afternoon is very special.”
Pantelis and other HCC faculty and students go above and beyond just painting.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of commitment, especially to keep doing it consistently, year after year,” said Mark Switzer, co-captain and HCC music professor.
Paint Your Heart Out Tampa pressure washed the home before the team arrived. Volunteers then had to scrape off any loose paint, remove garbage, cut bushes and, or course, paint.
Pantelis and her group of 62 volunteers thought nothing of the extra hours incurred before the painting event even begins. And some in the group had task-specific skills, such as Pantelis’ father, who works as a handyman, and John Tate, a contractor with access to various equipment who came out to support Mara Manis, HCC science professor and a participant for numerous years.
This year, replacing window glass, grouting, re-tiling and replacing broken tiles on a front porch, replacing a particle board porch roof with real wood and even reframing doors and installing locks happened weeks before. Installing front and rear porch lights happened on paint day.
If an item on the home was in disrepair and needed to be fixed, it was check-listed and completed.
“With all the negative stuff you hear on the news all the time, it’s really refreshing to be in a project like this,” said Switzer. “Everybody is here because they want to be — all volunteers. It’s a nice experience to be part of a group pulling together and doing this.”
Pantelis’ goal even after the event was completed is to get a volunteer plumber on board and find a decent stove and refrigerator for her homeowner.
“That is still our No. 1 thing — the kitchen and a plumber. If someone calls me, I’ll come out to meet them,” she said.
Though she was awarded the first Gregory Waksman Team Captain of the Year award in 2010 for her dedication and leadership, she refused to take credit. Instead she thanked the HCC Student Government Association for their sponsorship.
“Our student government is wonderful. This is not possible without them and our adviser Steven Crudup. We’ve been very blessed with great support from Ken Turley, who retired, to Steven. If we weren’t underwritten by the Dale Mabry student government, we could have manpower everywhere, but if we don’t have the money to pay for the supplies, then we couldn’t do the repairs we do. We are very fortunate to have their financial backing and advertising support,” she said. “Dr. Chunn, Dale Mabry campus president, has also supported us the entire time. He’s 100 percent behind us.”
To learn more about Paint Your Heart Out Tampa, visit www.pyhot .org. If you are interesting in sponsoring the HCC Dale Mabry group or assisting with immediate needs of large appliances and plumbing, call Kathryn Pantelis at her campus office at (813) 258-4512.