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Northwest Salmon



Day County Housing Development makes

another Webster home sweet home again

by Emre K. Erku

Acts of kindness are at it again.

Earlier this month, the Day County Housing Development got the paint and primer and volunteers rolled up their sleeves to selflessly refurbish an ailing Webster house back to its old beautiful shine.

For their second consecutive year, using grant funds approved through the Paint-South Dakota campaign, a social extension of the South Dakota Development Authority, the DCHD orchestrated this revamp project, and local helpers managed to put the finishing touches on homeowner Diane Mathiason’s early 19th century beauty on June 18.

“The paint was basically peeling off the house,” said DCHD board member Ellen Ellis. “It was curled, so it needed (painting) very much.”

Eligibility for the grant itself requires a homeowner to be financially or physically constrained from getting their hands dirty. Accordingly, the DCHD obtained residence listings from city officials who fit the bill. As they surveyed for suitable candidates, the perfect one surfaced.
So in March, after Diane delightedly expressed her approval to go through with the project, initial proceedings started. The funds were applied for, volunteers were recruited and the logistics were calculated.

“They made it look like a new place,” said Diane, who lives with her daughter Jennifer. “It feels more like a home. It’s just more cheery.”

Diane, whom currently battles cancer, isn’t working, and the money she does have, she said, goes towards doctors. Meanwhile, Jennifer holds a job as a kitchen worker at a local living center. This circumstance prompted the DCHD’s efforts.

And the cavalry charged in.

Ten or so volunteers sometimes played hooky from work to climb ladders, scrape the exterior trim and slather fresh coats of tan paint. Even local paint shop owner Eric Coyne, who Ellis referred to as their “Saving grace,” put forth materials and labor free of charge.

“Small towns need people to volunteer,” said Coyne, who did the majority of the spray work.

“Everyone puts in their time when they can. Whether you get something out of it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t have volunteers, you wouldn’t have a small town. As long as I’m able to, I will.”

This philanthropic endeavor extends beyond not only helping people in need but also advancing the county towards a more alluring community sparkle.

As plenty of properties peel from the onslaught of old age, people worry about a county’s overall health. When prospecting businesses and potential residents window-shop their ways to landing the most ideal location, an ailing surface won’t lure a look under the hood. This influenced the DCHD to add to their repertoire of enhancement opportunities.

“We were looking at a way to better the community and this came across our path,” Ellis explained. “We’re hoping when you drive through this community you start to feel welcome, like you could live here. It’s a reflection of the people… But seeing (Diane) happy is worth more than any assessed value.”

The other rotating volunteers varied as much as they did in their professions as they did in age.

From a high school principal and a politician to a finance officer and a small business owner, sharing four decades of age respectively, they all shared a new craft: being dedicated painters for more than two weeks.

“Jim Tompkins is 76-years-old and he was at the top of the ladder!” Ellis exclaimed, noting the Day County commission chairman’s fearlessness of heights. “He was there before I got there and he was the last to leave. He was very instrumental.”

And instead of Webster high school principal Jim Block roaming the halls, he was administering fixes near the roof, or instead of Webster finance officer Linda Hoberg crunching numbers, she was doing a good number to neaten the neighborhood.

Now, according to Ellis, the DCHD plans to tackle not one but two county properties next year, including one outside of Webster. Being that Diane sometimes has to reassure herself that it’s her house she pulls up on the driveway, she said, it’s easy to see why the drive to improve the community continually gains speed.

“They just did a great job. Everyone is so helpful and willing to do things,” Diane said. “They just want things done but for people who can’t do it themselves. We used to have a lot of houses that were in bad shape. (People) now are more willing to stay here. We have a really nice community.”

According to Paint-SD figures, the last 18 years have seen more than 450 homes across South Dakota painted, resulting in more than 8,942 gallons of paint and primer being applied by 6,876 local volunteers.

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