Paint-a-Thon provides more than just a fresh coat of paint for Upsala family

By Kerry Darger, Correspondent

Homeowner Denise Virnig, left, and Paint-a-Thon Committee President Mike Trettel stand before Virnig’s century old home as volunteers give the house a fresh coat of paint.
Homeowner Denise Virnig, left, and Paint-a-Thon Committee President Mike Trettel stand before Virnig’s century old home as volunteers give the house a fresh coat of paint.

A house is never just a house to the people who call it their home. It is where children and grandchildren are raised, where goodbyes and hellos occur and where the laughter of today becomes the memories of tomorrow. Keeping a house looking fresh isn’t about vanity, it’s about honoring a home and the family that lives there.

For those who cannot afford to paint their home, the Paint-a-Thon is there to help make their home feel new again.

The Paint-a-Thon is sponsored by Oasis Central Minnesota. The program is geared to assist seniors, individuals with disabilities and low-income families paint the exterior of their homes. It has been rallying the community to paint homes for 21 years and the Paint-a-Thon is held every year on the first Saturday in August.

Denise Virnig of Upsala was one of the individuals selected for this year’s event. She purchased her home in 1981 and has faced some heavy burdens during those years of home-ownership. Virnig suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and has complications with both her knees, caused by an injury she endured while at work. She is currently on disability and shares her home with her daughter, two grandsons and significant other.

For the past 10 years, Virnig has been applying for the program and has never given up hope that her application would be accepted.

“I’ve applied every year but I didn’t apply in 2012. I just figured they wouldn’t pick me. That was a very down year. That’s when the roof on our garage caved in. My mom and sister-in-law died that year. I got depressed and I didn’t feel like doing anything,” said Virnig.

Meeting her significant other pulled her through the darkness. She met him online and at first, she was not enthused by his advances. Finally, she let down her guard and gave the man an opportunity to love her.

“We met in May of 2013. As soon as I met him, I clicked off the Internet. I found what I was searching for. Even with all the pain and stuff, he’s taken me dancing. He got me going. Helped me get my self-confidence back again. He was a lifesaver to me.”

With an uplifted spirit, Virnig began to make some improvements to her home. She cleaned up the garbage and heaps of scrap metal that were around her property. The garage with the collapsed roof is being torn down and she has been making her yard an enjoyable place to rest.

With all the improvements, the new paint will further brighten the lives of the homeowners.

The Paint-a-Thon team in Upsala consisted of members from both the Community Covenant Church and the Gethsemane Church. Team Leader Dave Piasecki and Paint-a-Thon Committee President Mike Trettel have been painting homes in the area since 2001.

Virnig’s home was built in 1906 and has many features common to the era, including a high, steep roof. This proved to be an interesting challenge for the volunteers.

“This was a nice sized project. I’ve been blessed with ramblers so far,” said Trettel.

Paint company Valspar donated all of the paint to the cause. More than 121 gallons of paint are donated every year, ensuring the homes are painted with a high-quality product that will last.

The program has helped hundreds of residents in Morrison County, and the need is increasing. Seeing the state of people’s homes has provided a new outlook for the team members.

“There has never been a home that we’ve painted that didn’t need it,” said Trettel. “It’s sad to say that there are some homes that are so bad in this county that we have to just say ‘no.’ They were simply beyond painting.”

Oasis Central Minnesota started with the Share-A-Meal program, but now includes additional services for low-income individuals, seniors and those with disabilities including Fix-A-Home and Ruby’s Pantry.

A fresh coat of paint can give a home a facelift, and for the homeowner, it protects their shelter and provides them with a small bit of comfort.

For Virnig and her family, it also makes the start of a new beginning.