Volunteers help Navy veteran bring city house up to code

The phrase “labor of love” might not always mean actual labor is involved – but that’s exactly what it meant recently at a Navy veteran’s home in the city.

Roy L. DeRemer received a letter from the city codes office in April, informing him that his house at 609 Sixth Ave. needed to be repainted by June 30 in order to be up to code, but the disabled veteran was at a loss as to how to make it happen.

“Giving him two months to get this done, with his age and income and his disability … it just wasn’t going to happen,” said his sister, June Wright.

Wright contacted the codes office, which extended the date to Sept. 30, but DeRemer still

was faced with the financial and logistical problems of painting the entire exterior of his home.

He approached the Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living for help – where Wright also works – and they suggested he complete an application for Habitat for Humanity’s Brush With Kindness program.

Unfortunately, they were told that the scope of the project was too large for them to complete.

But the project didn’t stall there. Habitat suggested they talk to the Favors Forward Foundation, where Dr. Beth McMahon got to work on finding supplies and volunteers for the project.

“It was a project that I really wanted to come together,” McMahon said.

McMahon and David Keene, assistant director of Lycoming County Veterans Affairs, worked together to get discounted paint, primer, brushes and caulk, which was paid for by the DuBoistown Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

While the supplies were being secured, Wright and The Door Fellowship’s Ministry of Helps offered to find a group of painters and volunteers who would give their time for a focused one-day effort on DeRemer’s home.

It all came together when a small army of volunteers gathered at DeRemer’s home bright and early, first getting to work on scraping down the exterior of the two-story home.

“It’s truly inspiring to see all of these people give up their Saturday to help another,” Wright said.

She said that none of the volunteers wished to be named, in order to keep the focus on the project itself, but the group of about 12 – made up of professional painters and citizens alike – was all smiles as they climbed up and down ladders and scraped away at the faded, chipped white paint by hand.

By about 1 p.m., the home had been scraped down to the wood and painted with a coat of white primer. Volunteers took a break, lunching on donated pizza, before getting back to work on the paint job.

“It should take us about two hours,” said one volunteer, a professional painter. “It will go more quickly than the primer, because we can spray on most of the paint instead of applying it by hand.”

A few threatening clouds were rolling in by then, but rain held off, and the painting was finished by about 3:30 p.m.

DeRemer sat outside on a folding chair and watched the work unfold, all throughout the morning and afternoon, amazed by the concerted effort of volunteers to help him get his house into shape.

“I was amazed, just really surprised, at the number of people who turned out,” he said. “It’s truly a blessing.”