Landlords of Linn County help beautify Cedar Rapids home

Group volunteers as part of Habitat for Humanity's A Brush with Kindness program

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Garry Grimm spent Wednesday afternoon fixing up a home in Cedar Rapids’ Wellington Heights neighborhood.

As a landlord for properties in Wellington Heights, he knows the area well.

But on Wednesday, Grimm wasn’t at one of his own properties. Rather, he was at a three-story house on Grande Avenue SE with paintbrush in hand, helping spruce up the home as part of a Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity program called “A Brush with Kindness.”

“It makes you feel like you’re part of the neighborhood,” said Grimm, a board member for Landlords of Linn County, which is made up of about 200 property owners and managers.

Six members of the group turned out Wednesday to help refurbish the exterior of the home with a fresh coat of tan paint. The trim was painted gray. A carriage house on the property is also getting a new paint job and minor yard work is being done.

Barbara Kintzle, community outreach chairwoman and a board member for Landlords of Linn County, said the organization has been making monetary donations every quarter for the past two years to local charities dealing with housing. This year, the group decided to take a more hands-on approach to giving back.

“We said, ‘Let’s do something hands on, and do something for the community,’ ” Kintzle said.

Getting involved with A Brush with Kindness seemed perfect as the program offers homeowners in Linn and Benton counties who qualify a chance to have exterior improvements, such as landscaping, painting and repairs, made to their homes. To qualify, homeowners much earn 50 percent of less than the median income in the county. In 2015, a four-person family in Linn County could qualify if they earned between $23,450 and $39,050 annually, according to Habitat officials.

Homeowners must agree to invest at least 25 hours of work themselves and pay for the cost of materials through a no-interest loan.

Bob Grafton, site supervisor for Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, said work on the Grand Avenue property began in mid-July with different groups volunteering to scrape, prep and paint the home. Organizers hope the project is completed in the next month.

Grafton said A Brush with Kindness was established five years ago and, to date, about 60 properties have been upgraded, many in the Wellington Heights neighborhood.

“We’re trying to have a cumulative effect,” Grafton said.

Six homes are being refurbished through A Brush with Kindness this year. The program typically runs from early May until early November, weather permitting, Grafton said. For more information about the program, visit cvhabitat.org.

“With this program, it doesn’t work unless we have community involvement with volunteer groups,” Grafton said.

For Grimm, Wednesday’s volunteer effort was time well spent.

“When you donate money, you may or may not make a difference,” he said. “With this, you can see what you’re doing.”

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