Volunteers make Block Party look sharp

Apr. 26, 2014 @ 08:59 PM

City officials traded suits for ripped shirts and paint-stained jeans while church volunteers, groups of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and others joined them in making one part of Sanford a little nicer on Saturday.

Hawkins Avenue is one of the main roads leading into Sanford, and many visitors have their first impressions of town on it while driving into downtown. Some of those impressions no doubt included the broken windows, chipped paint and overgrown lawns that adorn many of the houses in the Hawkins Avenue Historic District between Hill Avenue and Weatherspoon Street.

The idea Saturday was to change that, as volunteers descended on the area starting at 8 a.m. and worked well into the afternoon.

It’s the fourth year of the annual Sanford Block Party, as organizers call the beautification project which is supported by city government officials, real estate agents, insurance agents and others. One volunteer said Saturday his only complaint is how often it happens.

“The sad thing is we only do this once a year,” Jim Turner, a member of First Baptist Church, said while applying a much-needed coat of light blue paint to one house with a half dozen fellow church members. “But who knows? Maybe next year we’ll do it twice.”

While people like Turner painted, others raked leaves out of yards and raked new gravel in, creating better driveways. At least one yard got new mulch, and all the yards got detailed attention from lawn mowers and weed-whackers. Around 70 or 80 volunteers had already shown up by 10 a.m., said John Ramsperger, a local Realtor and event organizer.

“That’s good,” he said. “Manpower is the biggest part of it. You can’t do work if you don’t have people to do it.”

At one home, volunteers from the nearby Love, Faith and Fellowship Deliverance Center tackled a long list of projects. Sherito Smith swept the porch as her husband Les and son Zion Dennis, and others from the church, chipped away old paint on the front porch and applied a fresh coat.

“What better way to spread God’s love than to show it?” Smith said. “We can talk about it all we want, but this shows it.”

Yet similar to years past, Block Party volunteers at many of the houses said they had no interactions with the homes’ actual residents on Saturday — although organizers did contact them beforehand, working together to set up lists of work that needed doing.

“We got it started,” she said of the day’s work. “So maybe that’ll be inspiration for them to do the rest.”