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Life sciences faculty, staff set to 'rock & roll' at Paint-a-Thon

When the crew showed up to paint Floyd Seaton’s house in 2007, the 83-year-old retired Navy nurse had no idea that some of the workers were a bit overqualified for the job.

In fact, the whole crew was exceptional, as Seaton came to learn.

His house was being spiffed up by professors, graduate and undergraduate students, staff and their families from the School of Life Sciences.

The academics will be out in force again this year, and, on Oct. 22, will paint the South Phoenix home of Cassandra Womack.

The School of Life Sciences has been painting a house every October since 2006 through Rebuilding Together the Valley of the Sun (RTVS), a national nonprofit organization that works to preserve affordable home ownership and revitalize communities.

The effort is dubbed the Rock & Roll Paint-a-Thon. ASU’s involvement began in 2006 when Barb Hoffman, program coordinator, Research and Training Initiatives, Peggy Coulombe, manager of media relations and marketing, and Marci Welton, who no longer works at ASU, led an effort to “contribute meaningfully in the community, outside of our science efforts, and to build connection between members of SOLS (students, faculty, staff), and also with our neighbors,” said Coulombe.

Coulombe was team captain for that year, and Hoffman has led the group since.

Houses are assigned by RTVS, and paint is provided by RTVS from donations made by sponsoring businesses.

Usually, about 20 faculty, staff and family members show up to paint. “Children are supposed to be 14 and older,” Coulombe said. “It is a great way to involve the kids. The homeowners always seem surprised to have Ph.Ds painting their homes!”

Many of the homeowners are female and on their own, or elderly. Last year’s oldest homeowner was 97, according to RTVS. All are grateful, such as Betty Dunn in Mesa who, Coulombe said, “cried after she saw her home painted. It mattered that much to her.”

The retired Navy vet said that “the last time his house had been painted was when his daughter was 12. He was not a young man,” Coulombe added.

There are sometimes surprises on Paint-a-Thon day.

After the group had finished painting Henre Ette Draper’s Mesa home a lovely shade of pink (Draper’s choice), the homeowners’ association noticed, and complained. So, the painters got to work and repainted the exterior a sea foam green that was approved.

In her thank-you note to the SOLS group, Draper wrote, “I was very impressed by the entire group, their compatibility, patience and fun attitudes. Please tell everyone I appreciate all they did and especially you for getting this all coordinated so well. I am truly sorry about the paint color dilemma, but amazed that the group didn't walk out on the job!”

The SOLS staff enjoys helping others, but the Paint-a-Thon is a welcome change from the usual pace of academic life said Coulombe, who wrote, after the first Paint-a-Thon, “Unlike research where discoveries come after years of commitment, the Rock and Roll Paint-a-thon yielded tangible and visible results, and made a difference in the life of a wonderful person and, as it turned out, the mother of an ASU alumnus.”