SEMO BSU paints Cape Girardeau
CAPE GIRARDEAU – On April 21, volunteers took to the streets of Cape Girardeau with paintbrushes in hand. “Fresh Paint Cape” is a new event organized by volunteers from the Baptist Student Union at Southeast Missouri State University. The group got the idea from similar projects in Cleveland and Baltimore where volunteers select a block of homes and spruce them up with a new coat of paint.
After approval and coordination from Cape Girardeau City Hall, the group was assigned to paint six houses in the 500 block of South Benton Street. The houses along the west side of the street all are fixer-uppers and home to low-income residents, said Assistant to the City Manager Heather Brooks.
Bob Houchins, a campus minister and director of the Baptist Student Union, thinks fresh paint is a relatively low-cost way to give an area a new attitude. “You can just imagine the way it’s going to influence lives because we’re doing it as a free service. Typically that area of town gets little attention and has a great need,” he said. BSU is a student group with 300 total members and about 150 active members.
The group received paint donations from Color World in Cape Girardeau and Eastman Decorating in Sikeston. Members planned to use an average of six gallons per home and allowed residents to select the color.
“We had to go to houses and meet with owners and have them sign a release. They were overwhelmed somebody was doing this. We just had great conversations with them,” Houchins said, adding that if the project is successful he hopes to expand it to other neighborhoods.
Residents on the afternoon of April 18 seemed to welcome the change. Calvin Jackson, 57, is the owner of a two-bedroom home on South Benton Street. Jackson has lived in the home since 1956 and plans to rent it in the near future. He selected a cream paint and another shade of white. The new paint, he hopes, is a sign of a neighborhood on the upswing.
“I’m glad since the police started patrolling through here. It keeps the guys selling drugs out, it keeps them in check. This, I hope, will just be another way to make this neighborhood better,” Jackson said.
Ida May Williams, 78, has lived in her home since 1972 and said it has been at least that long since the one-story maroon dwelling was painted. Williams gestured to the house’s peeling and chipped paint. It’s time for a change, she said. “I told them I want it dark green with white posts in the front and the back. That’ll be nice. As long as I get my color, it’ll be all right with me,” she said.
At the end of the block, George Pruitt was out with hammer and saw working on his home. Pruitt was replacing sections of the house’s wood paneling that have begun to rot. The home formerly belonged to his grandfather, who died last July. Pruitt, who works on the river, said he’s seen a lot of negative changes in the neighborhood over the years and hopes it starts to come back. “A little sprucing up couldn’t hurt nothing around here,” he said. And besides, he says, he’s too old to paint some of the hard-to-reach portions of the house. “When I get up on that ladder, my old lady might decide she wants to come along and knock me off,” Pruitt said, laughing. (Permission to reprint this story was granted by the Southeast Missourian.)