beautification day_2011_web.jpgBROWNSVILLE — The Brownsville community got a face-lift this past weekend as more than 250 volunteers joined residents for the annual Community Paint and Beautification Day sponsored by Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida (NHSSF).

The non-profit, which assists current and potential homeowners with purchasing, home maintenance and community restoration, sent workers  door-to door to offer residents free painting and landscaping. Through a partnership with Citizens for a Better South Florida, a non-profit environmental education organization, residents were able to select urban greening for their homes and get training on landscaping maintenance.

Daniel Arjona, a loan officer with NHSSF, told the  South Florida Times that “Paint Day” is intended to uplift the community and give the organization an opportunity to work with residents to increase property values through neighborhood restoration.

“We pick certain houses every year, we paint them and bring them up to par with the community,” Arjona said. “Our organization partners with lenders, banks and non–profit organizations to provide the volunteers.

This time, the volunteers focused on 15 homes and a wall on the west side of the block that was covered with graffiti.

Brenda Smith, whose house is located at the corner of Northwest 53rd Lane and 28th Avenue, said she was skeptical at first about an organization offering her free painting, but ended up thankful to NHSSF for its willingness to assist her neighborhood.

“I received a flyer saying you could get your painting and landscaping for free and I couldn’t believe it. But I filled out the application and faxed it in, and within two weeks they told me that out of 30 people,  I was one of the  15 that was chosen one,” Smith said.

Smith, who lives at her house with her brother, said that she was contacted to discuss her paint options and told of a training session on greenery that would be held for all selected residents.

“I’m getting landscaping and flowers everywhere,” she said with a smile. “I chose my paint and the trim and I can’t wait until it’s all finished.”

Smith is so pleased that she is encouraging neighbors to join in next year’s Paint Day.

“You’ve got to take one step out and believe because you never know until you try,” she said. “With the help of the volunteers, it has been a successful day for me and my family.”

Brian Lemmerman, a Miami resident who volunteered to do some landscaping, was pleased with the enthusiasm of residents and volunteers.

“Everybody is very active and engaged and this can help increase the value and the appreciation that people have for the community from an aesthetic stance,” said Lemmerman, who accompanied his girlfriend to “Paint Day.”

“I had no expectations. I just showed up and asked them what they wanted me to do. If you’re going to spend your Saturday sitting on the couch watching T.V., go spend your time helping someone because all we have is each other,” he said.

Resident Minnie Green said she had considered painting her house when she could afford it and so she was thankful to the volunteers.

“The house needed to be painted and now I have people to help me do it,” she said. “Projects like these bring up the value of your home and make the neighborhood look inviting. You always want wherever your home is to look nice and you want the same thing for your neighbors, so each house makes a difference.”

Nioseline St. Jean, a volunteer from Miami  Dade College’s Wolfson Campus, helped paint Green’s house. It felt good to give back to the residents and bring a sense of pride to the community, she said.

“Most of the houses around low-income places are battered and bruised, the paint is chipping and the neighborhood doesn’t look good,” St. Jean said. “So when you put a fresh new coat of paint on there after [several] years, it brings a new, vibrant feel to the community.”

Brandyss Howard can be reached at