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Colors of community

Barn Raisers gather to restore homes and
create strong friendships
Sunday, October 17, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:24 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Painting a home takes plenty of supplies. In the case of Jo Grady and Mark McGimsey, it meant 12 gallons of paint, 12 paint rollers, seven ladders, hours of hard work and buckets of patience.

Getting the hands and help to do the labor is another story – especially when the going rate for local house painters is about $20 per hour. Plus, Jo is 22-weeks pregnant and has a three-year-old toddler with Mark, who suffers severe back pain.

The brown trim on their two-story bungalow home is flaking off. The beige paint begs for a new coat. The windows on the top story of the home have a thin film of dirt.

For the couple, the massive repair project seemed impossible. But instead of scouring the Yellow Pages or the Internet, Jo and Mark relied on a few good friends and neighbors.

They call themselves the “Barn Raisers,” a loose collective of Columbia residents who put their heads and hands together to restore each other’s homes.

Each month, about 18 members meet on Sunday, from breakfast to dinner time. Lunch is provided by the family whose home was restored the previous month – for October, homemade vegetable pot pies.

And because the majority of the barn raisers have small kids, about four parents leave aside the paint brushes to read, play games and watch the children at another member’s home.

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Jo Grady paints the trim outside one of the bathroom windows of her home in Columbia.

While painting an entire home is challenging, the day’s activities offer far greater rewards beyond a fresh coat of paint. The friends perch on ladders an arm’s-length away from each other, scraping old paint off the home’s trim

before adding fresh, new coats of brick red and mocha.

They work diligently underneath a cloudless, cobalt-blue sky, as wind chimes jingle from the front porch.

Conversations about handling children’s tantrums and the grieving of a deceased family member fill the air.

For the busy parents of children, deep conversations with adults can be rare, and is one of the aspects that brings the group together time and again.

After nine hours of labor, the project remains unfinished. But after a group consensus, the barn raisers decided without hesitation to return next month to complete the project.


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