Winifred Yoakum already has 94 birthdays behind her, but she will have something new to celebrate when her 95th rolls around next week.
That's because she'll be spending it in a freshly painted house, thanks to the efforts of about 100 area children.
"I just hope it's not orange," Mrs. Yoakum said Wednesday. "It's white right now. I wouldn't want to put my neighbors through that."
The students, ages 10 to 15, are enrolled in the Adams Junior High School Summer Enrichment Program. As part of their six-week curriculum, they will paint Mrs. Yoakum's one-story frame house on W Fern Street next week, culminating with a birthday bash for Mrs. Yoakum on July 14.
The program, financed by the Juvenile Justice Department, was created to provide homework assistance, recreation and self-esteem activities to neighborhood children. Its popularity has attracted students from as far away as Citrus Park and the West Shore area, said Gayle Phelan, the program's lead teacher.
"I wanted something that would make them feel good about themselves while helping someone else," said Phelan, who contacted the city's Paint Your Heart Out program for the name of someone whose house needed painting.
While the endeavor is not an official Paint Your Heart Out project, it has the program's blessing, said Angela Martinez, director of the senior home improvement program at the Centre for Women.
Mrs. Yoakum's name was selected because she loves children, and the project seemed well organized and involved teachers and parents, Martinez said.
"I used to be able to do things, but when you get as old as I am you don't think like you used to," Mrs. Yoakum said. "Well, this is legit, you know. I won't have to worry about anything happening."
_ JACKIE RIPLEY