Sure, Tampa’s coat weather (that day or two each “winter”) is over – unless you’re talking about new coats of paint for the homes of families in need, applied by TECO volunteers. After that, something amazing happens: smiles spontaneously appear in the community.
We’re not alone in participating in Paint Your Heart Out, Tampa! (PYHOT), of course. The annual volunteer effort to paint and make basic repairs to the homes of low-income elderly residents spans the community, thrives strictly on private contributions (no federal, state or local funding) and involves thousands of people.
But TECO volunteers were among the first.
“TECO’s been there since Day One with Paint Your Heart Out in 1988, and it’s been so fulfilling to see the program grow,” said Candido Corona, lead mechanic at Tampa Electric’s Eastern Service Area Garage. “It’s obvious that it means so much to TECO team members because the same volunteers come back year after year – except now they’re bringing the next generation!”
Walter Reed, account manager with Tampa Electric, was among the volunteers. His experience highlights an aspect of PYHOT that’s not always as visible as freshly painted new homes: the critically important preparations and post-painting cleanup.
“My kids and I enjoyed participating in a support capacity at the distribution center,” Reed said. “While our work was not directly with homeowners/recipients, we know that our efforts this past weekend supported those who did – for this year and next!”
Joining TECO volunteers like Reed were those in constant motion behind the scenes at the PYHOT distribution center, where they assembled paintbrushes and buckets, rollers, stir-sticks and more and put them into cars and trucks on their way to homes to be painted.
At four home sites, TECO volunteers took part grabbed their brushes and went to town.
In addition to painting a house, a team led by Lineman Curley McKenzie completed several repairs to help make it safe from break-ins, including installing new hinges on doors – and they did it shorthanded when several volunteers were unable to make it out for the event.
Bonnie Begley, meanwhile, lead desktop support analyst, led the Power Painters 2.0 team – an effort that included Sarah MacDonald, president of TECO Services; Karen Mincey, vice president of Information Technology & Telecommunications and chief information officer; Kevin Sturgill, director of Business Relationship Management & Computing Services; Keith Sims, manager of Desktop Support; and others.
“In addition to doing a great job with painting and repairs, the team deserves a special safety salute for making sure we avoided exposed electrical wires in the home,” Begley said. “Mark Pelsh spotted the wires and Kaylene Hasto (both engineers II) tested them with TECO gear to ensure that we could safely paint around them.”
Begley, a longtime PYHOT volunteer, has tons of stories like these, and the endings always have a way of making you feel great about the power of helping those in need and what volunteering brings to the community.
“The homeowner couldn’t stop smiling,” she added. “She was really excited about her new door. When her husband arrived at the house, he said it looked like a new home!”