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52 and counting

Loving Sunnyside Initiative will result in six home makeovers this coming Saturday

What started as an inspiration during a pastor's sabbatical has in the past three years seen 52 homes in Sunnyside receive free makeovers.

It's all part of the Loving Sunnyside Initiative's goal to demonstrate the love of Christ, and this coming Saturday the non-profit will be back at work painting six more houses in Sunnyside.

The six home sites to be cleaned, scraped and painted on Saturday include two on Bagley Drive, one on South 13th Street and another on South 16th Street. The other two homes are on N.W. Crescent Drive and Decatur Avenue.

The work day will begin at 7 a.m. at the Sunnyside Christian High School gym with registration and a free breakfast provided by Mountain States Construction and Martin & Rodriguez Dental.

Following a kick-off presentation from 7:45 to 7:55 a.m. the estimated 125 to 150 volunteers joining the effort will start work at the home sites by 8 a.m.

Cleaning and painting materials will be provided. A free lunch will also be served to volunteers courtesy Argus Insurance.

The work day is scheduled to wrap up by 2 p.m.

Leroy Werkhoven lives in Sunnyside and says the idea for the Loving Sunnyside Initiative and its efforts to assist homeowners facing hardships due to age, poverty or handicap started with his pastor at the Sunnyside Christian Reformed Church.

"Five years ago our pastor had a sabbatical and one of the real reasons for his sabbatical was to look at how can a church really affect a community?" Werkhoven said. The answer to that question led his pastor to a large church that paints 25 houses at a time.

That resulted in what for the past three years has been the Loving Sunnyside Initiative, which each year selects 10 to 20 homes in the Sunnyside area needing to have their yards cleaned up and houses painted.

The work takes place twice each year in April and October.

Werkhoven, who sits on the city of Sunnyside's Planning Commission, says volunteers are still needed for the April 13 work day.

"We're always eager to have people participate," he says. "If they don't want to paint we can have them do yard work."

Call the church at 837-5371 for more information or to see how you can help in additional ways, such as through prayer, donating painting supplies or financial support.

Having topped the 50-home mark last year, the Loving Sunnyside group is closing in on its first major goal - painting and freshening up 100 houses in the Sunnyside area.

"Every year we're painting houses until we reach 100," Werkhoven says. "After that we'll look at another project."

After all, the Loving Sunnyside Initiative's focus isn't just painting houses, but touching hearts.

"Our hope is that we can cause people to believe there are others who care about them and want to help," Werkhoven says.

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