ALTON — Some 86 Marquette Catholic High School seniors eschewed a mission trip this week in favor of helping others locally, and otherwise beautifying the Alton-Godfrey area.
“I’d rather stay home” than go on a senior trip, said Allison Hansen, 17, on Tuesday. A smiling Hansen was standing on a step ladder, swiping brushfuls of light gray paint up and down old, textured wood shingles on the front of a 95-year-old Godfrey woman’s house.
“I really like to be around people, and I think it’s fun to do this,” Hansen said. “It’s better than being in school.”
Hansen said prior to Tuesday, she only had painted her bedroom and art class projects, so she was learning first-hand about painting a house.
On the south side of the building, fellow senior Eric Royal, 18, similarly was applying paint to the wide, rectangular shingles. Royal, also, said he was learning the techniques of house painting. “I’m learning not to glob it on there,” he said. “I feel good helping her, knowing I’m helping out.”
Homeowner Catherine Waters, who turns 96 on May 1, peeked through her window from time to time to see the nine young adults beautifying the exterior of her house.
“I think they are doing a good job, they are being very careful,” she said. “The house hasn’t been painted, except for the trim, since 1952. They said it never would have to be painted” when the shingles went up on the side of the one-story house that year.
Waters, a widow who raised six children in the home, said she was surprised to get a call asking if she wanted her house painted for free. “I said, ‘Let me think about that,’” she said.
Upon further thought, it seemed to be a good idea.
Waters has connections to Marquette — her three girls attended the school. She also understands “giving back.” For years, she has helped others through her quilt circle that donates quilts they make to various groups, including for 30 years to the former Ursuline convent in Alton.
Meg Miller, Marquette director of advancement, said the students power-washed the house Monday but did not paint because of the rain. “It’s really going to be pretty, these kids are doing a great job,” she said of Waters’ house. “They were here on time; they are great kids,” she said. “They are excited about helping.” They plan to start another project Thursday.
The students are painting houses as part of their class’ local community service week, in coordination with Bucket Brigade. Dale Neudecker, founder and organizer of the Pride Inc. program, obtained the paint and provided names of homeowners who were qualified to have their houses painted. This week, the students will paint six houses in Alton and Godfrey, as well as park structures.
“I’m just really enthused about their participation this year,” Neudecker said. “I think it is really nice to see the enthusiasm. It is going to get Bucket Brigade off to a great start this year, and provide long-term memories for the kids working on the projects.” The main day for the 29th annual Bucket Brigade painting spree is May 14.
Hansen and Royal both said they preferred to paint, as opposed to their classmates who chose to rake wet, soggy park grounds on Monday and put down mulch Tuesday along Broadway in Alton.
Some 15 students, mothers and Alderwoman Carolyn MacAfee, 2nd Ward, were busy on mulch detail Tuesday morning at Lincoln-Douglas Square. “It looks a lot better,” said MacAfee, also chairman of the Alton Beautification and Clean City Committee. She tends to plantings along Broadway and Downtown each growing season.
Alton Public Works Department had dumped big hills of dark, wet mulch in preparation. The busy bevy of students went to work spreading it among plantings at the square, at West Broadway and Market Street.
Some students, such as Hannah Hazelwonder, 17, hauled loads of the mulch to the island across Broadway, spreading it evenly around those plantings.
“I enjoy helping the community doing this stuff,” Hazelwonder said. “It’s not a big deal for me. It’s a really good cause. You get people walking by and thanking you, and people waving at you. It’s got to get done.”
The students also spread mulch in the in-street planters along Broadway where MacAfee has put in day lilies and other flowering plants, from Easton Street west to Lincoln-Douglas.
Not all of the hard workers were students. Gigi Lucas was helping with the mulch, but her daughter Brooke, 17, is a junior.
Lucas, of Alton, said Marquette now requires parents to log 10 hours community service per year, and with the school year ending soon, she was getting her hours done this week.