Howard Haugerud assists in the painting of his and his wife’s house in Harmony. The Habitat for Humanity “A Brush with Kindness” project was sponsored by their church, Greenfield Lutheran.  ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Howard Haugerud assists in the painting of his and his wife’s house in Harmony. The Habitat for Humanity “A Brush with Kindness” project was sponsored by their church, Greenfield Lutheran. ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Just a couple coats of paint can make a huge difference for a home, family and community. The Howard and Angela Haugerud family, which lives in Harmony, recently experienced this realization when their church, Greenfield Lutheran, partnered with Habitat for Humanity in its A Brush with Kindness program. After four days, two coats of paint and over 10 volunteers working each day, their home on Second Avenue Southeast took on a look that brightened the street.

"It's one of those things where first you think, 'Yeah, well we probably wouldn't qualify,'" said Howard as he applied another coat to the outside back wall of his family's house.

He spoke about A Brush with Kindness, which helps low-income homeowners make exterior repairs, including painting.

Habitat for Humanity - Winona and Fillmore Counties made the program part of its organization last year and completed its first project with the James and Cheryl Elliott house, which is also in Harmony.

"There are a lot of homeowners out there that can't keep up with maintenance," explained Community Outreach Development coordinator Megan Grebe on why the program works well for those who may not be able to afford repairs and maintenance on their homes in addition to normal, everyday bills.

The Haugeruds had first had their home painted 13 years ago, but found they were unable to keep up. Finding out about the program last fall, they got in contact with Megan, who paid a visit to the family and assessed what they would need done. To their surprise, Howard and Angie learned they would qualify for help in re-painting their house and fixing up a few exterior items. Following a formal online application, the family was set to start working whenever Habitat for Humanity put the family on its project list.

All Habitat projects ask that the families receiving the help try to be involved with the work as much as they can. Volunteers are also asked to help out.

Megan mentioned that Harmony already has a group of people who are very supportive of any projects going on through Habitat. The Haugerud house benefitted through help from them, the Harmony Lions' Club and especially their church, Greenfield Lutheran.

"It's part of a Christian life and Christian service," explained Greenfield Pastor Betsy Dartt, who was not aware of the painting project until she called Megan to see if her church could help with anything. The church was already looking to become involved with local service opportunities as part of the National Lutheran Volunteer Weekend and the A Brush with Kindness project serendipitously fell on the same week.

"We encourage people to get out and benefit the community," shared Dartt.

The church did more than only volunteer labor, it also became the project's financial sponsor. The average cost of A Brush with Kindness project is roughly $3,000 dollars. Benefitting families are expected to make low, zero-interest monthly payments so the money can be turned around to help another family in need. The church's contribution paid for many of the materials.

During the four days of the project, the church community also pulled together to bring food for worker meals.

"It was a big weight lifted off our shoulders," said Angie.

Even though temperatures reached into the upper 80s and 90s from Sept. 5 to 8, there were always eight to12 volunteers at the house.

When work commenced on the Thursday, the entire house was scraped of its peeling paint. Painting began in earnest on Friday and continued until the end of Sunday. Both the house and garage were painted with several coats of a periwinkle color.

Besides the painting, several other exterior repairs were made. An attic window on the front side of the house had damage with several of the smaller panes falling out as a result of high winds. Megan ensured that new glass was cut and installed to replace the window. Trim along the garage had also been replaced and painted. In the near future, the front porch will be re-leveled.

Not only did the project benefit the Haugerud family, but Megan said the event would help raise even more awareness about Habitat's presence in Fillmore County.

With two A Brush With Kindness projects completed and a new Habitat house built in town, Harmony may be the town to take the lead.

"There is more awareness here," stated Megan.

One goal is to have four projects per year in the county for A Brush With Kindness programming.

Howard pointed out that people who see the newly painted house may become motivated to get involved with similar projects or even consider seeing if they qualify for the program themselves.

"It's a great program," said Howard.

Pastor Dartt explained that programs like A Brush With Kindness help "fulfill an inner need that all people have to have meaningful work."

Through service, she explained, "We reach others and do things together that multiplies the energy and talents we have."

"It's all about community development and coming together to accomplishing something for someone in need," stated Megan.

Angie agreed, thanking everyone who had helped in any way. "It's been amazing seeing the people coming here and helping. We are grateful and appreciative."

More information on A Brush with Kindness can be found on habitatwinona.org.