Volunteers sought in Rector
"But I am only one person, what can I do?"
The answer may surprise you. It turns out that one person can accomplish a great deal.
There is a local woman who has been doing a considerable amount of repairing and climbing scaffolding to paint some of the historic buildings in downtown Rector. At age 58, with a bone-on-bone right knee and back surgery to repair two ruptured discs, she has some physical challenges, but she keeps at it.
Some would say she has no business being up on ladders or lifting five gallon paint buckets. However, Janet Manchester says it is very gratifying work.
"It not only preserves these structures, it improves the appearance of the entire downtown. It makes me smile to see the changes a little bit of paint makes."
Many people have stopped and visited with Manchester while she sat high on the scaffolding. They often say, "I hate to paint."
"Painting is just the last step -- anyone can scrape loose paint or sand," Manchester said.
Last spring, several members of the Rector First Baptist Church youth group did just that on the Lawrence and the Underwood buildings on Main Street.
"Lots of people can tape off around windows," Manchester said. "Anyone can roll a coat of primer on a building -- it does not require a professional. Most folks can do the cleanup after the painting is done, including washing the windows and sweeping sidewalks."
Manchester is willing to share all of these steps with anyone interested in volunteering.
Rick Harvey, retired Navy, did just that. He and his wife, Lori, moved here from Hawaii a few years back. Harvey spent most of last summer using his talents removing the old, flaking paint from the Lawrence building and repainting it.
Jim Forrest used his body shop talents to repair rusted out portions of the historic Mesker Brothers iron columns on that same building. Alyssa Diddle, age 15, stained the original front doors a deep mahogany.
Trudie Speer, retired interior designer, generously shared her skills in color selection for several storefronts. Some have donated money for paint and supplies. Others have worked behind the scenes to acquire donations of paint from companies such as Barton's, so Rector's "Paint the Town" project can continue.
Several of the business owners have participated in these improvements. Ryan and Dixie Lawrence, owners of Elite Enterprises, purchased all of the paint for their building. Ronnie Underwood, of Underwood Furniture, gave a generous donation and applied wood trim to complete his store's renovation.
In addition, he loaned his scaffolding for painting Ed Long's Alley Automotive. Mosley's Napa Store donated painting equipment and their crew assisted with moving scaffolding several times.
When approached about painting, Sherland and Barbara Hamilton stepped up and completely renovated the exterior of their storage building.
"What a difference it makes when you turn the corner from Highway 49 onto Main Street and you see this attractive building with its new awning," said Manchester.
She also noted the Rector Garden Club's contribution of beautiful flowers pots on Main Street. Another valuable donation was the replacement of the missing door glass on the Underwood building by Richard Caldwell.
Manchester also complimented the amazing job Greg Downs and Shellie Horton did renovating Sol Sisters inside and out.
She explained that when potential new businesses come to Rector, they count the number of burned out stores and empty storefronts.
"These represent economic death indicators, and if there are very many, the companies perceive the town to be dying and will not locate here," she said. "Peeling paint, piles of junk, rusting metal and trash put off businesses and families looking for a place to call home."
Other towns have painting projects, too. Stuttgart's efforts to renovate are being made possible by a group of local businessmen who meet each month to power wash storefronts and paint their town.
"If one old, crippled lady can paint two buildings by herself, just imagine what a group of strong and determined men could do for Rector," Manchester said.
She quotes Matthew 25:15, and says, "God has given different talents to each of us. I believe it is time for more individuals to step up and apply their talents to making Rector a great place to come home to."
Manchester said at times she feels like the Little Red Hen when trying to recruit volunteers because everyone wants to enjoy the benefits, but few are willing to work.
"Call 870-595-2300, if you want to volunteer and be counted as one who made a difference," she added.