By Benjamin Joe
It started nine years ago when Jesse Gooch, owner of Painters Plus and a Niagara County legislator, decided to use his business to do some good for the community. Gooch noticed there were several houses in the community that needed an exterior paint job. Painters Plus handled jobs on similar houses and it was like a lightbulb went on. Gooch’s business had all the supplies and the know-how to paint any of these houses.
Thus, Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Paint Exteriors) was born in 2010.
“We pick a family in need of an exterior paint job who are going through financial hardships,” Gooch said. “We get a bunch of volunteers together. Other businesses roll up their sleeves and join us.”
This year the winner of Project H.O.P.E is Paul Kalinowski of North Tonawanda.
“My sister and I are both retired senior citizens living on fixed incomes. I am undergoing long-term chemo-therapy for colon cancer, and my sister suffers from serious COPD, has had multiple surgeries, and has been diagnosed with debilitating osteoporosis,” wrote Kalinowski. The house was built in the late 1940s and was last painted in the 1970s.
Gooch has been supported by the mayor and other city officials in North Tonawanda since 2011 when he approached them with the idea of Project H.O.P.E. That year he, his crew and 20 to 30 volunteers repainted the exterior of a disabled Vietnam veteran.
In 2012, he did the same for a disabled 90-year-old widow. Others include SERVE Niagara, which was a home for wounded warriors; a single mother with a terminal illness and three children; another disabled vet who was also a cancer survivor and widower; a family battling cancer and the Niagara Active Hose fire hall. These were all helped by Project H.O.P.E. in each of the consecutive years till 2017.
One difference since its inception is its range. The project has gone from being limited to the North Tonawanda border to also helping those in the City of Tonawanda. In 2018 a family was hit with the tragedy of illness and disability and needed an exterior paint job. Rather than barring them out of the running because of their location, the project expanded its range.
Gooch said that his crew could paint an exterior between four and five hours and that it has almost become a community event.
“Last year I brought the Cub Scouts with us,” he said. “A local pizzeria often donates a pizza for everyone that came out.”
For those interested, the painting will commence at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at 233 Edward St., North Tonawanda.