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Johnson County judges, both active and retired, from the Tenth Judicial District of Kansas in Johnson County are preparing to trade their gavels for paint brushes on September 16-17 to make improvements to three homes in Mission.
They will be joined by scores of attorneys from the Johnson County Bar Association.
The project, organized through the Heartland Habitat for Humanity and endorsed by the city of Mission, has earmarked three homes in Mission for improvements. Two of the houses will receive fresh coats of paint. Yards will be raked. Flower beds cleaned out. A driveway sealed. Some small trees, bushes, weeds, and a stump removed. Some small home repairs completed. The work is all for free.
The tasks are on the to-do list of a labor pool of approximately three dozen volunteers from Johnson County legal community. They will work in shifts beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, September 16, and ending Saturday, September 17. Since 1999, Johnson County judges and local attorneys have volunteered to assist in a Heartland Habitat for Humanity project in the Kansas City Metropolitan Region.
The three homes in Mission are part of the “A Brush with Kindness” program started this summer by the Heartland Habitat for Humanity. The program is part of a new focus for the nonprofit agency, well-known for building houses for lower-income people for more than two decades. In a time when the housing market is struggling, Heartland Habitat is concentrating on serving more families by revitalizing existing homes in addition to building new homes. Both missions use volunteers.
“It makes sense,” District Court Judge Stephen Tatum said. “By fixing up the houses and keeping them in good shape, we are able to help people to continue to live in their homes and to improve neighborhoods. ”
The recipients include the house and yard of Paul and Norma Geivett, who have lived in their home for 50 years. They have been contacted by the city’s Neighborhood Services Department about some code violations.
They can’t afford to pay for someone to do the work. Both live on a fixed income. He is 86, recovering from a fractured hip/leg and some vertebrae that have limited his mobility. She’s 84, with some health issues, spending most of her time caring for her husband and maintaining the inside of their aging home.
“She says that everything she has and all of her attention keeps her inside,” Kate Fields, Director of Resource Development for Heartland Habitat, said.
The outside of the couple’s home, including the yard, is the main focus of the “A Brush with Kindness” project. The tasks include cleaning up the fence line and flower beds; removing of an evergreen, a small tree, and bushes; and making some repairs, such as caulking, installing new latches on screen doors, painting an awning, and cleaning window shutters.
Volunteers also will help:
• Lynn Decker, a single mother raising an 11-year-old son with Down’s syndrome. She needs her home painted and a few small repairs; the asphalt driveway sealed; and some yard work, including removing a stump from the front yard.
• Linda Wilcox, a divorced mother with two teenagers. Her home also needs a fresh coat of paint. She has the paint, just needs the labor.
The Mission home improvements are the second “A Brush with Kindness” project in Johnson County this year. The first occurred in July in Roeland Park with minor exterior repairs to a home. Future projects are in the planning stages in Olathe, involving one home, and four or five homes in Prairie Village. Heartland Habitat expects to complete approximately 50 “A Brush with Kindness” projects in the metropolitan area before the end of the year, including about 30 homes in only a few days in Gladstone, Mo. in October.
The new program does not mean the end of home building for Habitat.
Since its founding 23 years ago, Heartland Habitat has used mostly volunteer labor to build more than 200 homes in the western Kansas City region, including Kansas City, Kan., Bonner Springs, Leavenworth, De Soto, and Olathe. Seven homes will be completed in 2011. The organization serves Johnson, Wyandotte, and Leavenworth counties in Kansas, and Clay and Platte counties in Missouri. Heartland’s office is in Kansas City, Kansas
In the past decade, the Johnson County legal community has built two Heartland Habitat for Humanity homes in Olathe (1999 and 2009), one house in De Soto (2000) and seven dwellings in Kansas City, Kansas.
“We will continue to build new homes for folks,” Fields said. “But by the end of the year, we can say instead of helping seven families, we’ve helped more than 60 families, and that to me is huge. ”
Each of the Mission homeowners will provide some “sweat equity” in the projects as much as they are physically able. Some will paint. Others may rake and do yard work. The Geivetts, on the other hand, may simply talk and visit with the volunteers.
Describing himself as the official gofer,” Judge Tatum plans to assist in the “A Brush with Kindness” project by carrying paint, ladders, and supplies; painting lower levels of homes; and doing yard cleaning, weeding, and other tasks.
His involvement will be done on the ground.
I have painted my house once, and have since have painters do the work. I’m willing to hold a ladder, but I don’t like being on a ladder,” he said. “Up a ladder, that’s not me.”
After helping to build nine Heartland Habitat homes in a decade, Judge Tatum has long developed a respect for workers and craftsmen who make their living as home builders throughout the year. That respect now extends to professional painters and experts in the business of home repairs and improvements.
Judge Tatum admits the labor may be hard, but it’s a good group of volunteers for a good cause. It also shows a different side of the legal community.
“It proves that judges and attorneys can do other things beside go to court,” he said with a smile.
More information is available by contacting Johnson County District Court Chief Judge Stephen Tatum at (913) 715-3792 or Kate Fields, Director of Resource Development for Heartland Habitat for Humanity, at (913) 342-3047
Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:28am