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'These people are a godsend': Bank employees repaint couple's Salt Lake home

SALT LAKE CITY — At the end of Concord Street and Pierpont Avenue stands a house where every side, from the foundation to the gables, is marred by peeling white paint.

Gary and Linda Smith have lived in the home for more than a decade, along with a dozen or so neighborhood cats that stay in the couple's backyard garage.

Linda Smith said neither she nor her husband have been healthy enough in recent years to repair or repaint their property.

On Friday, 18 employees from U.S. Bank — armed with paint rollers, brushes, ladders and smiles — volunteered to paint the Smiths' house and the garage as part of NeighborWorks Salt Lake's annual Paint Your Heart Out event.

"These people are a godsend, I tell you," Linda Smith said. "They’re an answer to my prayers."

The Smiths' home is one of 14 on Salt Lake City's west side and Murray to be painted this weekend.

"There's so many good people in this world. You just can’t believe it until you see it happen," Linda Smith said. "There's a lot of needy people out there … and for them to pick us is just a prayer answered."

Since 1985, Paint Your Heart Out volunteers have painted more than 810 homes at no cost to homeowners, who are often elderly, disabled, low-income or veterans.

This year marks the 11th year U.S. Bank employees have volunteered at the event.

"These are good, working people," Shannon Feldman, a commercial loans representative and longtime Paint Your Heart Out volunteer, said of the Smiths. "I like when I’m doing stuff and you can see instant gratification.

"And it's better than being in the office," Feldman added, smiling.

Paint Your Heart Out usually starts on a Saturday, but Sunil Singh, U.S. Bank Salt Lake branch manager, said it's easier to gather bank volunteers during a work day.

"If you look at the people that are here and you go out and talk to them, most of them have been doing this for the past five or six years," Singh said.

Many of the people in the neighborhood are older and have lived in their homes for years, he said. And they often don't have the stamina to paint their homes.

"The beauty with these (houses) is that once we’re finished with the project, as we’re walking away, we can see the difference it’s made to the neighborhood," Singh said. "You walk out and say, ‘Whoa, this thing is all nice and bright.’ It spruces up the neighborhood."

Brandon Elzinga, vice president of corporate trust, focused his efforts on the foundation, using a brush to cover the red exterior in white paint.

"It’s just a good opportunity to come out and help people," Elzinga said. "It looks likes it’s been a long time since it’s been painted. So (it's) definitely in need of a new coat of paint."

This is the first year Maria Figueroa, a banker from U.S. Bank's Herriman Smith's branch, has volunteered with Paint Your Heart Out.

"I think just helping the community is my favorite part," Figueroa said. "I’m definitely going to come back and do it next year."