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Day to light up homes, lives

When someone asked Cathryn Hart if she would let volunteers paint her house, she didn't have to think twice.

Hart, 78, who lives in Seffner, can't do the work herself, so she's looking forward to a fresh coat of paint on her old wood-frame house.

"It sure does need painting," she said.

Hart has lived in the home for more than 50 years and can't remember the last time it was painted.

"It's been several years," she said. "It used to be white and black _ before that it was green. I don't know what it was before that, it was here years and years before I ever moved in."

Hart was the first person chosen this year to participate in the Highlighting Hillsborough-Paint Your Heart Out program in Brandon. She is one of 31 residents in the greater Brandon area who will have their homes painted this Saturday by teams of volunteers.

The Paint Your Heart Out program has been successful for three years in Tampa, and the Brandon project is seen as a pilot program to expand the event throughout Hillsborough County, said Doug Lobel, co-chairman for the project.

"The network doesn't exist in some parts of the county to organize this kind of effort like there is in Brandon," Lobel said. "Once we show how this can be done, we'd like next year to possibly expand to Ruskin, Apollo Beach and other parts of the county."

Homeowners are selected based on several criteria, Lobel said. They must be at least 62 years old and meet low-income requirements. Special consideration is given to the disabled. A county housing inspector makes sure the houses meet minimum code regulations, and volunteer contractors perform minor repair work, if needed.

Volunteer painters come from companies and organizations throughout the community. Each team consists of 15 to 25 members. Some are led by professional painters who direct the crew's work.

An organizing committee raised money through raffle tickets and donations to buy supplies and provide T-shirts and refreshments for painters. The group has planned a celebration after Paint Day.

In the past, the Paint Your Heart Out program had to raise money through donations to pay for paint. But this year, the Hillsborough County government is donating recycled paint for the project. Leftover paint is collected from residents at the county's recycling stations.

There are 13 color combinations from which homeowners can select. The base colors, with names like Wedgewood and Peach Petal, are coupled with a selection of trim colors.

Hart selected a light taupe with a dark taupe trim for her house. She said she is happy she was selected for the program.

"It makes me feel great," Hart said. "It shows the love some people have for their community. There's very little of that anymore."