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Volunteers paint Ann Arbor schools

Paint for Kids founder Gene Firn after a painting project at Lawton elementary in Ann Arbor. The ball of tape measures 3 ft in diameter.

Gene Firn is the founder of Paint for Kids, an Ann Arbor-based organization that mobilizes parents and community volunteers to paint schools.

Firn, who teaches a DIY painting class, was looking for practice walls for his students when he learned that the Ann Arbor school system doesn't have a painting department. He thought he could help, so he submitted a proposal.

The concept is simple: an experienced painter supervises parent volunteers as they transform hallways and classrooms over holiday weekends.

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Firn, who said that Paint for Kids fulfills the needs of local schools, but also attempts to create a culture of volunteering.

"We meet a very practical need. Painting is very practical, but people experience what I call the volunteer promise. The volunteer promise is, very simply, you'll receive much more than you give," Firn said.

Paint for Kids has completed projects at four schools and two projects at Safe House Center, an emergency shelter and domestic violence support organization.

Each painting project attracts many participants--at the last event 83 volunteers served 300 hours--and the results are tangible and lasting.

"I feel like this is an example of people living lives of love and self-giving," said Firn, and his hope is that the Paint for Kids projects encourages volunteering beyond schools. 

"I encourage people who do come, that there are other needs out there," he said. "Either in our family, at work, or in the community."

You can learn more about Paint for Kids on facebook.

 -Meg Cramer, Michigan Radio Newsroom


Christina began her career in radio at Michigan Radio while a student at the University of Michigan. She was a producer and researcher for The Todd Mundt Show, and then hosted Weekend Edition.