Painting an inspiring picture

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Palos Hills woman thrilled to have her house painted during Palos Park church’s SON Weekend

  Inspiration lifted church members up from theDouble-run-FRONT-COLOR-2-col-CARLENEPalos Hills’ Carlene O’Connor had her house painted, received a bucket of paint, a basket with a pumpkin inside and a t-shirt courtesy of the SON weekend in September. pews and into their community to practice what was being preached.

  The Palos Park Presbyterian Community Church gathered more than 200 volunteers, and hit the households of 23 residents on to conduct home improvement projects. They likened the project to “Extreme Home Maker” with a splash of something off of Home and Garden TV.
  It’s called Serving Our Neighbors Weekend and it’s been happening annually, during the last weekend of September, for four years.
  They replaced everything from roofs to furnaces. They cleaned everything from gutters to carpets and trimmed everything outside from trees to grass.
  If that’s not enough, some of them painted, wall to wall, inside and out. This is the short list at zero cost to the homeowner. SON Weekend took place over three days. If the job couldn’t be finished within the weekend, a mop-up crew finished the work the following week.
  Carlene O’Connor, of Palos Hills is one person who is happy with having her place dressed up.
  “These are tremendous people,” she said. “They painted my entire condo in one day. It was amazing. They had a team of eight people. I’m a smoker, with thick nicotine on my walls. You can’t tell anymore. It’s beautiful in here.”
  She said she was given a quote by a professional painting company months prior and the asking price was $3,000. She spoke soft but rapid saying, “I could have never afforded that. The church didn’t ask me for anything. And, they gave me a gift basket, leftover paint, a t-shirt, and invited me to a free breakfast the next morning.”
  As a thank you to the group, she says she attended a worship service and gave a speech.
  O’Connor said she worked for the Palos Olympic Health Club for 16 years. She added she had zero reservations about accepting help. She said she “felt special.”
  SON Weekend was inspired by a disaster in New Orleans.
  The devastation of Hurricane Katrina caused an awakening for members of PPPCC. Bob Sneddon of Palos Heights has been with the church since 1972 and is the project coordinator for SON Weekend.
  “We all wanted to board a plane and go to New Orleans but it was too costly,” he said. “We shifted our focus to helping right here, in our own community.”
  James Tony, who has been the pastor of PPPCC since 1990 said knew this vision needed to be a collaborative effort and reached out to the Palos Township supervisor Colleen Schumann.
  “Pastor Tony needed us to locate residents willing to accept help. I told him he’d have our full support,” Schumann said.
  Schumann’s assistant, Bernadette Orr, of Palos Hills, became the liaison between the township and the church. Orr sent letters to current and past participants of their general assistance program, holiday basket drive and food pantry clients. Respondents’ specific needs were assessed and added to the site lists for service.
  Over the span of eight weeks, PPPCC recruited volunteers, matching skills with the site specifications. Entire families signed up. Anyone with a desire to help, was deemed fit. For example, the church grandmothers prepared and delivered lunch to each work site.
  Word began to spread throughout Palos Townships like a virus. Local businesses wanted in on the fun. John and Beata Vander Veen of Palos Hills-based Diamond Temperature heating and cooling business donated service to 19 of the 23 sites. They’re third year participants. They said it’s their way of giving back.
  Sneddon said, “The church funds the project but when businesses are willing to help, it allows us to do even more. [For example] Dan Harrison, Ace Hardware owner in Palos Heights, donated materials for cost, saving us thousands.”
  Orr has since retired from Palos Township but still volunteers for this project.
  “It was hard for people to let us help at first. When you haven’t served in an area you’re receiving, it makes some feel undeserving. Put pride aside. We’re just people, helping people. It’s the most rewarding and loving thing I’ve ever been a part of.”