By JOHN GORALSKI
Professional painters exploded into the Gura Building last Saturday like a cluster of spiders scrambling to build a web.
They spilled into every room, blanketing the floors with drop cloths and paint buckets. Some were climbing ladders, armed with paint brushes. Others were crawling into corners and staircases, while the rest swept across walls with their rollers.
Without a word, they set to work, in a mad dash to prepare the space for the final rush of volunteers.
Southington Community Cultural Arts (SoCCA) Executive Director Mary DeCroce didn’t even attempt to suppress her smile as she surveyed the workers going through their paces.
A job of this size, attacked by so many professional painters on a Saturday afternoon, would cost in the tens of thousands by any estimation, but the painters were all volunteer craftsmen from across the northeast. The entire project was spearheaded by Southington Painting Company co-owner Mark Adams.
“We are so thankful to our community and to people like Mark,” said DeCroce. “The most amazing thing about this project has been to see the community step up and say, ‘Let’s make this happen. We want this to happen.’ Even though we had to fight in the beginning, the people who live here have always wanted this to happen.”
The volunteer effort is an annual pro bono project undertaken by the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, of which Adams is a long-time member. Each year, members from the Northeast Council band together to embrace a community project. This year, volunteers from New York to Maine volunteered for the SoCCA painting project.
“It feels great to be a part of this,” said Adams. “It’s so great to see those things that I remember as a kid—the windows and everything else—back to the way I remember it as a kid.”
Adams was joined by his son and co-owner, Ken, and his entire workforce. They all gave up their weekends to work on the project. The woodwork was stained and finished. The walls were professionally painted. The workers meticulously moved appliances to get into the corners that nobody would even see.
Adams said that this may be one of the biggest projects that the association has undertaken.
“It’s not difficult,” he said. “It’s the size of the project and the short window that we have to do things because there is so much construction and so much volunteer work on the way.”
DeCroce said that this sort of community outpouring has been overwhelming throughout the project. It has enabled SoCCA to stretch every dime, but visitors will never know. As they enter the lavish space, washed over by natural light with carpeted floors, exposed brick, and sinks to clean brushes in almost every room, it will appear as if project managers had an unlimited budget.
DeCroce credits volunteers like Adams.
“The whole town’s been extremely generous, but this job in particular would have cost us thousands and thousands,” she said. “This is probably one of our biggest donations of goods and services, as far as price and volume of work.”
DeCroce said that the community came out in force from the very start. Local contractor Mat Florian waived all of his fees as he helped spearhead the construction. He called in favors to find the best prices and donated time and services.
Connecticut Appliance & Fireplace Distributors on Graham Place in Southington donated appliances. Sherwin-Williams offered huge discounts on carpets. John Boyle Company gave discounts on paint. Cortina Tile donated the tile and installed it for free. Connecticut Lighting Centers on Queen Street offered huge discount for the lighting.
DeCroce said that there were a whole host of volunteers and donations throughout the community.
“It would have been a shame to see a building like this torn down,” said Adams. “This will help a lot of people… It’s not just for this community, but for a lot of people. It will help the handicapped. It will help the artists. It’s a very worthwhile project.”
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