Raise a brush for Alaska

NeighborWorks Alaska began working in Anchorage neighborhoods over 35 years ago. It's where we started as an organization and it's where we will continue to work, even as we move statewide.

NeighborWorks provides quality and affordable housing to almost 2,000 Alaskans in 1,000 units. We have a HomeOwnership Center that provides coaching, financial education, mortgage and down payment assistance to hundreds of Alaskans every year. We're actively engaged in the collaborative effort to end homelessness in Anchorage through our tenant and sponsor-based rental assistance programs, and our Community Development team is constantly developing partnerships that work to enhance the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

Our signature community outreach event is Paint the Town. Originally started in the '80s, we relaunched in 2006 and have since painted 140 homes with the help of staff and community volunteers. It's hard to truly understand the needs and challenges of a community unless you are working alongside neighbors in the places they live and raise their families; it's part of the reason Paint the Town got started so many years ago. Sprucing up homes and helping folks who do not have the resources on their own is fun and rewarding — just ask our many corporate, nonprofit and rotary volunteers.

This year, we painted four homes, did paint and touch-up on the ice rink at Williwaw Elementary School, partnered with Hope Community Resources to plant flowers at the Palmer Fire Station and teamed up with the Anchorage Community Land Trust to spruce up the Catholic Social Services Welcome Center.

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Events like these do not happen without lots of help. Sherwin Williams steps up every year and donates the paint we need to do the job. Subway is also an awesome sponsor as they provide the delicious sandwiches and chips needed to keep our volunteers going throughout the day.  Alaska USA Mortgage Co. brings snacks and refreshments in the morning to sustain our volunteers until lunch and keep them painting after the coffee has worn off. Stellar Designs does a fantastic job of creating fun T-shirts for our volunteers to wear proudly during and after the job. First National Bank, GCI, International and Russian Jack Rotaries, Residential Mortgage and HUB International Northwest all provided the financial support we needed to make sure we have the resources to complete all the projects. 1-800-GOT Junk, EMI and FA Contractors also provided in-kind help for critical construction requirements before painting even began.

Paint the Town isn't just a one-day event — it's a launching point for building meaningful relationships in our neighborhoods. Our collaboration with the Anchorage School District and the Russian Jack Community Council at Williwaw Elementary is just an example.


Said principal Likka McCauley: "When NeighborWorks partnered with ASD to rebuild and paint the ice rink, it opened up many wonderful opportunities for our students and community. We were able to offer an after-school learn-to-skate program through the Anchorage Skate Club. Our gym teachers built in opportunities for all students to use the rink during PE classes and a private donor provided funding for skates and helmets to provide access to all students. Our students learned how to participate in a healthy physical activity that they would not have had access to, and community members alike enjoyed the time bonding on the ice — it was a great way to strengthen community partnerships!"

All in all, Paint the Town is a great way for us to do what we do best: gather community partners, get out in our neighborhoods and do good work.  NeighborWorks Alaska remains committed to building Anchorage neighborhoods and everyone is welcome and can play a role.  Visit our website:  www.nwalaska.org and Facebook page to see what we're up to, or better yet, stop by our offices —  we'd be happy to talk with you in person. We always have an extra brush!

Jim Nordlund is executive director of NeighborWorks Alaska, based in Anchorage.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com. 

Jim Nordlund

Jim Nordlund is the executive director of NeighborWorks Alaska. Previously, he was the Alaska State Director for USDA Rural Development, a private contractor building contractor, Director of Public Assistance for Alaska, and a member of the Alaska State House of Representatives.