News & Events

Beyond the Paint

08/11/15 at 02:19 PM by Jillian Hanes

Over the past 33 years, NeighborWorks Boise’s Paint The Town™ volunteers have painted and revitalized 3,210 homes throughout Southwest Idaho.  While that might be an impressive statistic, we cannot help but look at the lives behind this number.  Who are they?  Why did they need the help?  This year, some of these deserving recipients included:

  • Mattie, a woman with terminal cancer whose home and garden needed a little refreshing in celebration of her living longer than doctors expected
  • Harold and his wife, who have been active Boise residents for many years, but  couldn’t physically or financially paint their home after his 5 heart attacks and open heart surgery
  • Phoenix, another active community member whose spirit of service started when he served as a United States Navy soldier during World War II.  Today he continues to give back to the community by playing the fiddle for the residents of a local retirement home.

In June, I got the privilege of interviewing Harriet, another remarkable Paint The Town™ recipient, whose life story has epitomized the spirit of volunteerism and giving back to her community. 

As she invited me into her home, I determined that I had written down her age incorrectly.  This was a 97-year old widow?  A combination of her poise, impeccable memory and self-sufficiency made her appear 20 years younger. Yet it was when she began her life story that I was truly awestruck.

Harriet, a Coloratura (operatic) Soprano and former school teacher and her husband, a member of multiple national Board of Directors in the beef industry, were “California transplants” that moved into their Boise home nearly 45 years ago.  Their migration to Idaho wasn’t just to purchase prime real estate. They came to make a positive impact within their neighborhood and community.

Harriet immersed herself in the community – becoming active in the Methodist church, the Philharmonic, Women’s Republicans group, and the local chapter of the Philanthropic Educational Organization that promotes the advancement of women.  She even volunteered for St. Luke’s (and its predecessor, Elks Hospital) in whatever position she was needed for 31 years.

“Volunteering is the best way to get acquainted with others when you’re new to the area – for both men and women," Harriet claims.  “I did it because people need to know someone cares.”

Harriet also demonstrated this care for others literally in her own backyard by donating the property behind her home several years ago to the City of Boise so they could build a park.  She went door to door asking neighbors to help contribute their land and materials for this recreational area where children and families could play and spend time together.

“I love to hear children playing and laughing,” Harriet beams.  “They’re sounds of life!”

Now all she has to do is open her patio door to be reminded of this energy and possibility that accompanies youthfulness.  When she needs someone to help prune her numerous rosebushes and landscape her immaculate yard, what does Harriet do?  She uses it as an opportunity to teach younger generations a valuable career skill, of course. 

Harriet admits to ushering teenagers from the park over to talk to her with a wave of her hand and a certain look – leading them to think they are possibly in trouble for bouncing a ball near her yard.  Once they approach her, she kindly asks them for their help in her yard.

“Some of them ask me if I am going to pay them,” Harriet says.  “I reply with, ‘Well, are you good?’”

Over the years, Harriet has taught several teenagers how to prune and landscape in return for a fair wage.  In fact, she claims to have taught the owner of the largest landscaping company in southern California these traits when she lived there.

“It’s satisfying to teach someone a new skill.”

But being only three years away from centenarian status, Harriet was unable to take on the skill of painting her home this year.  She received a letter in the mail saying that someone had recommended her home for Paint The Town™.  Being the giver that she has been all her life, Harriet sent in $20 for paint along with a note that said if her home was not chosen, please use the money to paint someone else’s home that really needed it.

When Team John L. Scott Real Estate – who won Best in Show this year – came to paint her home, Harriet was prepared with lemonade, cookies and even balloons for the kids.

“I’m very grateful,” she states.  “I had my roof redone recently, but since my husband died I couldn’t afford a paint job.  It looks nice and fresh.  I recommend Paint The Town™.  The team was very kind and thoughtful – even asking if it was okay to cut certain branches.”

As I left the interview, Harriet stayed true to her character by offering me an ice cold Root Beer so I could face the summer heat.  What an amazing life of giving, volunteering, and passing along valuable skills to future generations!

Paint The Town™ is so much more than making a home look nicer.  It’s about touching the lives of people like Mattie, Harold and his wife, Phoenix, and Harriet, and giving them a greater sense of dignity and pride in their home.  Many of these recipients have given so much to our community over the years, and there are others who desperately need the help because they have no other support.

Community revitalization and building pride of homeownership through Paint The Town™ are a couple ways NeighborWorks Boise is helping increase the quality of life around the Treasure Valley.  Community members, like you have kept this vital event going for over three decades, and we are incredibly grateful for all of the volunteers, sponsors, and donors who contributed to this year’s most successful Paint The Town™ to date!  Click on the Impact Report to Open It.

Ready for another Chance to Volunteer?

Mark your calendars because Rake Up Boise™ 2015 will be on November 14th.  Registration begins September 1st.  Come join thousands of your fellow community members for a fun and worthy cause – raking leaves for your elderly and disabled neighbors! 

For more information about Paint The Town™ or how to get involved with our upcoming Rake Up Boise™ community event contact Lesley at 258-6215 or

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