Paint the Corridor brings community together

When people give their time and talents to their community, it makes a difference on so many levels.

And when it comes to painting dozens of houses in the corridors of Aberdeen and Hoquiam in the last few years, that difference is clearly visible.

Of course we’re talking about Paint the Corridor. This year there was no big event, but we did have three houses left unpainted from last year and three teams found us to tackle them.


We want to introduce you to those three teams, but first a little history.

Envisioned and funded by the Paul Stritmatter family in 2010, Paint the Corridor aimed to have volunteers prep and paint owner-occupied homes needing paint that were situated along the state highway corridors through Aberdeen and Hoquiam.

This idea became an immediate action plan for Grays Harbor Vision 2020. NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor, with our more than 30 years of creating housing opportunities and managing construction projects, partnered to organize the event.

With its generous donation of paint and supplies, the Stritmatter family, as well as the law offices of Stritmatter, Kessler, Whelan, Coluccio, supported this project every step of the way.

Once the ball was rolling, many community businesses — including COSMO in Cosmopolis, who donated prep tools that can be checked out from us for any group volunteering to paint homes — opened up their hearts and pocketbooks as well.

The response from businesses, organizations, churches and individuals has been so great that when these final three houses are complete, our community will have painted a total of 69 houses in the corridors of Aberdeen and Hoquiam in the last four years. Sixty-nine!

To say that we are grateful to these generous businesses and dedicated volunteers is a huge understatement.

Their generosity and hard work is still making a big difference in the lives of those individual homeowners as well as to each of us who live here and visitors who drive in and through Aberdeen and Hoquiam.

Here are the stories of these current volunteer groups.


Tammy Heth, the assistant vocational coordinator at the Aberdeen School District, is heading up a team for the fourth time!

Her team of six seniors, a few previous students, and a couple of friends, will tackle the home at 203 West Emerson in Hoquiam. In fact they’ve already begun scraping the house with plans to begin the actual painting at the beginning of August.

These students are using this opportunity as a senior project required for graduation. The senior projects have to benefit the community and include 25 hours of work, Heth explained.

“I approach the project like a jobsite,” she said. “We’re a team and that means all of us work together and support each other. If students develop some job skills out of this experience that’s a bonus. In the end, success is a sweet feeling and the students experience a sense of accomplishment and pride.”

Heth said that in the last four years her teams have faced many challenges. Some of the students don’t have reliable transportation, some lack proper work clothes, often the group is comprised of different social circles who need to learn to get along and work together.

But, she said, “it’s imperative to me that AHS students understand how important it is to give back to the community, learn empathy and take pride in the place they live.”

Besides, “it’s been so fun to see our community mixing it up and getting to know each other over such a fabulous cause.

“Tourists are quick to judge our town by appearance and deem us economically depressed,” she said. “Paint the Corridor has made a visual difference and also built a better community network among us.”

“The project also made a big impact on the homeowners who were struggling. It’s amazing how a little paint and a group of people can brighten someone’s day,” Heth said.


Next on our list of heroes are the folks from the Aberdeen accounting firm, Aiken and Sanders Inc., P.S. Led by Terry Sodders, a partner in the firm, this business has stepped up to paint the house at K Street and Emerson in Hoquiam, beginning the middle of August.

“We’ve been talking a lot lately about getting more involved in the community,” Sodders said. “I was aware of NeighborWorks and the Paint the Corridor project and thought this would be a great way to get involved.

“We’ve seen the houses that have already been painted and they look great. It really makes the community look good. It’s a worthwhile project and we’re excited to help out,” he said.


The third team we want to highlight is a large team from the Aberdeen Church of Christ. Some 55 people — about 50 of them between the ages of 13 and 18 — have already started work on the house at 717 Simpson in Aberdeen, behind the new Weatherwax statue of waves.

Lawrence Redding, the minister of the congregation, said that while some of the young people are local, others come from out of the area to help.

Last year this group worked in Stewart Park refurbishing things and also painted some bleachers and a building in Pioneer Park. This year they were looking for a project and heard about Paint the Corridor. And we’re so glad!

So is Redding, who says the group hopes to be done by the end of this week.

“Some of the young people are skilled and some are not. We have adults sort it all out and lead them along,” he said.

While what they do will make a big difference to the homeowner and the community, Redding points out that it will also make a difference inside the volunteers.

“The kids are given something valuable to do and that helps them grow and get out of themselves and be concerned about other people. By serving, they begin to think about others. Also, we’re hoping to express God’s love in a tangible way to our community,” he said.


Can you see why we’re so grateful to these three groups? And, we’re grateful to all the others over the past four years who’ve helped make Paint the Corridor a success. We hope to share more stories from past teams next week.


Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, or 1-866-533-7828, or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.