Diane Heslington, Housing Coordinator and Counselor, PROVO
The paint on Roylene Lunt’s Provo, Utah home was peeling and the rafters were in need of repairs. Bird and wasp nests and an overgrown tree were causing additional damage. However, the cost and the demands of raising a family while coping with cancer prevented her from making repairs.
Roylene Lunt met her husband in college and raised four children with him. They had always wanted to paint and fix up their home in Provo, Utah, but the demands of work and family always put the project on the back burner. The project was sidetracked further when Lunt was diagnosed with cancer. After treatment, she went into remission, but then was later found to have stage four cancer.
Roylene and her husband decided that it was a good time to cross a few things off of her bucket list. She and some of her childhood friends from Idaho decided to take a trip to see the Grand Canyon. They saw the sights and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. One afternoon, Roylene called her husband from her hotel. He said he was tired and had to run because he was late for a meeting. When she got home the next day she found he had died in their bedroom that night. After 38 years of marriage, Roylene was suddenly and unexpectedly alone. She continued with her medical therapy, but she had all but given up on her wish to see her home of 30 years painted while she still lived to enjoy it. By this time, the home was in dire need of a face lift.
Roylene’s situation is particularly heart-wrenching, but not unique in many other ways. Inflation, low-wage jobs, health problems, improper planning, the recent financial crisis and dozens of other challenges mean too many seniors just scratch by rather than savor this time of their lives. Nine out of 10 Americans 65 and older rely on Social Security, and the average monthly benefit is $1,262. Many receive much less than that.
According to the Social Security Administration, 53 percent of married couples and 74 percent of those who are unmarried receive 50 percent or more of their income from Social Security. The median income for seniors 65-74 is $36,320; if you’re older than 74, it drops to $25,417 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Twelve percent of those 65 and older are living at the poverty level. Provo is no exception. A third of our residents live in poverty.
NeighborWorks Provo (NWP) has provided vital community services to the residents of downtown Provo neighborhoods since 1992. One of the many ways we help them enjoy their later years is through home maintenance. Every year for 19 years, we have organized a Paint Your Heart Out event to beautify a resident’s home at no cost to the owner. NWP does the planning, coordinates permits and orders supplies. NWP works closely with a neighborhood association leader, who plays a key role in recommending potential projects and coordinating volunteers to do the work. Roylene was chosen for our 2015 home makeover.
The exterior of the house was in pretty rough shape. The paint was faded and peeling and the rafters needed repairs. Bird and wasp nests and an overgrown tree were causing additional damage to the home. We had more than 20 volunteers join NWP staff and board members to accomplish the task. As everyone showed up for the day’s work, it looked like we might be in for a downpour, but the clouds moved on and we had clear skies for the rest of the day.
The end result was a beautifully restored home; even the deck and backyard swing set were painted. Roylene was brimming with gratitude for the outpouring of support from NWP, neighbors and city officials. For their part, the volunteers said they received much more than they gave. One father whose wife also was struggling with cancer managed to take the time to help a neighbor in need and was grateful for the opportunity. And it wasn’t only adults who volunteered; some brought their children as well to teach them the value of community service.
As always, NWP was proud to have been key in orchestrating the event. It is but one of our many services, which include foreclosure avoidance and remediation counseling, homebuyer education classes, credit restoration counseling, rental services, homeownership opportunities and community event planning. But Paint Your Heart Out is vital to supporting and broadcasting our mission. Our employees are dedicated to serving the community and our neighborhood partners are willing to spend their time and energy to improve their neighborhoods.