By JOHN L. GUERRA
Tampa Bay Newspapers Correspondent
LARGO — A crowd of more than 250 Habitat for Humanity volunteers, armed with brushes and fresh paint, walked down the center of Oak Street in the Dansville area. The volunteers, both young and old, novice and experienced, wore "Paint the Block, Dansville 2018" T-shirts as they spread out to their work sites — 10 homes in the unincorporated neighborhood that needed coats of new paint.
"A lot of people showed up today, just wanting to help out," said Jack Shanks, director of volunteer services for Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County. Shanks, who has organized Habitat volunteer efforts like Saturday's for more than two years, explained how the morning of painting differs from Habitat's chief mission of building new homes.
"These homeowners don't have the capital to go out and just drop a couple of thousand dollars on keeping their houses up," Shanks said. "It's a nice thing to do; the homes just really need a paint job, a sprucing up."
It was quite a sight: Volunteers on roofs, painting the crowns of the houses, while on lower ladders, Habitat volunteers painted windows and door trim. Standing on the ground, reaching high with extension poles, other volunteers rolled the sides of the houses with fresh, pastel colors.
"They knocked on my door a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn't believe it," said Barbara O'Grady, one of several Dansville neighborhood homeowners who received a surprise paint job. "A young man at my door told me, 'I'm from Habitat for Humanity and we'd like to paint your house.' And I said, 'Oh my God, catch me!'"
O'Grady said her home hasn't been painted since at least 2004. Habitat threw in all the paint and the volunteer painters for the initiative, which was sponsored by Valspar Paint and the Valspar Championship golf tournament. O'Grady was right with them, painting her house on Saturday.
"I can't get on a ladder," she said. "I can't even tell you how thankful I am. I could never have done this."
Sherrie Williams and her friend Pamela Harvey were among more than a dozen Habitat volunteers painting a house on 134th Street. The two, as well as others in the Williams family, were donating their sweat equity toward a lot the Williams family hopes to receive in Safety Harbor. She joined the Habitat program in May.
"I entered the program because we needed a home for my two boys," Williams said. "My oldest boy is disabled and we need more room and space to be able to take care of him."
Vedna Augustin and her friend, Ashley Parks, were part of a painting crew on a third house in the neighborhood.
Augustin, who lives in a Habitat-earned home in Clearwater, said she has been doing sweat equity since 2014. She and Parks are working toward a Habitat home for Parks.
"I always come back to help and give back because it's hard to get volunteers sometimes," Augustin said. "This is such a great program; it is good to work with others."