Our Towns

Native Repays City by Launching ‘Operation Paint Brush’

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Jon Howell wants to show his appreciation for the city where he once lived by painting the town.

Not the whole town, of course, but rather four houses, one on each side of the city, owned by elderly, low-income residents.

Howell and his wife, Adrienne, have launched “Operation Paint Brush,” an effort that unites more than 30 organizations and at least 200 volunteers who intend to paint four houses over two days in May.

“I believe we are our brother’s keeper, and Youngstown formed me as a man,” said Howell, today an information technology manager at the corporate headquarters of State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Ill. “Operation Paint Brush is another way to give back and lift the spirit of our dear city.”

Howell is a 1980 graduate of South High School who still has family ties to Youngstown. His mother and father live here and he returns frequently. He graduated from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., in 1984.

Operation Paint Brush is a concept that has been adopted by nonprofits and volunteers elsewhere in the country. The Youngstown initiative will select four houses – one on the north, south, west and east sides – with elderly owners who live below the poverty line, Howell said.

More important, the effort brings together about 30 organizations that normally wouldn’t work with one another, he said. “We’ve got 16 to 20 new churches that we hadn’t worked with before,” Howell noted, while getting organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association, United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Youngstown State University and the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.

Professional painting contractors have agreed to help direct the projects, he said.

Howell added that more than 200 volunteers have committed to participate in the project scheduled for May 21 and 22.

Last summer, Howell and his wife presented an appreciation breakfast for City Hall employees, and in November, did the same for the city’s police officers.

“This is the largest effort so far,” Howell said.

Howell will be in Youngstown this weekend, where he plans to discuss the project with other partners and to help launch a mentoring program at the Newport branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

“It’s to help get kids six to nine years old to read books,” Howell said. The program is designed to help single mothers who demonstrate their desire to read with their children.

“I obtained my education through the public school system and went to college,” Howell recalled. “I want to give children the same chance I had.”

Pictured: “Operation Paintbrush” volunteers paint a house in Pueblo, Colo.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.