Volunteers lend helping Brush to Cedar Rapids homeowner

Program looks to help 20 families this year

Published: April 7 2013 | 3:25 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 1:43 pm in

CEDAR RAPIDS — About a dozen volunteers spent their Saturday morning scraping paint off a southeast Cedar Rapids home.

A Brush with Kindness, part of Habitat for Humanity, assists low-income families with home repairs. Rea Stull, the homeowner of the first Brush with Kindness project of 2013, stood outside 1620 Seventh Ave. SE in awe.

“I bought the house in 1988, it was my first house,” Stull said with a smile. “I love it here. I’ll die in this house.”

Stull added he didn’t realize how much was wrong with the house, and that you find things out as you go.

Ten of the 12 volunteers were part of a “colony,” the soon-to-be Kappa Sigma fraternity at the University of Iowa. Colony member and UI freshman, Steve Moioffer, 18, isn’t new to Habitat for Humanity. He said the last time he volunteered, he was using a sledgehammer to tear down walls. As the community service chair, he said he’s always looking for opportunities in the community and rallied up the nine other students to participate.

Construction manager Brandon Kriegel said 16 houses have been repaired in Wellington Heights since 2010. “We hope to serve up to 20 families this year,” Kriegel said. He added the program received a $60,000 grant for the next two years.

Kriegel added homeowners have to apply to the Brush with Kindness program and are involved in the process in some way. “They can help soak paint brushes, make lunch, it varies,” Kriegel said.

He said it takes between five to six volunteer days with 15 to 20 people to finish a project like this.

Habitat for Humanity volunteer coordinator Megan Banaszek said it’s amazing what a difference a couple of hours can make to one house in a neighborhood. “I grew up about two blocks from here,” Banaszek said. “You don’t realize what needs to be done even a couple of blocks away and what a couple of hours in a day can do.”

Banaszek also has done a lot of work with flood-impacted houses in the area; she said she is still amazed that five years later the city is still dealing with its aftermath. “It’s nice to do something with vacant houses, too,” Banaszek said. “Otherwise they could be torn down, or destroyed somehow.”

She added one of her favorite parts about her job is getting to meet and work with homeowners.

Stull said he applied for the program around two years ago and received a phone call last week. Stull said he almost forgot because it had been so long. “I was surprised, I didn’t know what to say,” Stull said. “Next thing I knew we were sitting in my dining room table talking, and now we’re here.”

“I didn’t realize there would be so many people,” Stull said. “I couldn’t have done this all by myself; it’s a big house.”

Stull grew up in Cedar Rapids and his mother lives about five minutes away from his southeast home. He is on disability because of multiple surgeries. “Half of my right lung is removed. Being a welder for 35 years — it caught up with me,” he said. The homeowner said his mother cut out a newspaper clipping and shared it with him several years ago; he said he couldn’t have done it without her, as his eyes began to tear up.

“I would’ve probably let it go,” Stull said about the condition of the house. “But my mother is still looking out for me at 86 years old.”

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