Fourteen University Police Department officers put away their badges and picked up paint brushes to benefit the local community Saturday.
The group, which included UPD Director Dolores Stafford, patrol officers and one student volunteer from Stafford’s office, spent the day renovating a house in poor condition. The house, owned by a low-income family, had major plumbing, electrical and structural problems. Hearts and Hammers, an organization aimed at keeping low-income, disabled and elderly home owners in their own homes, referred the house to UPD, Stafford said.
“We worked on the plumbing and electrical problems on Wednesday,” officer Tadeu Aravjo said. “The ceiling in the daughter’s room was collapsed from water damage, so we put up a new ceiling too.”
The group of UPD volunteers bought painting supplies with money raised from selling candy bars and set out to paint the house Saturday. The team rolled up its sleeves and painted the blue walls white in every room of the two-story house.
“This project allows us to come out and do some good for the community as a team,” Stafford said. “This gets us away from the work environment where everyone has titles and lets us all work as equals.”
“We’re not at work. I can talk back to my boss,” said Charlotte Polonscik, an office assistant at UPD.
While community improvement was the focus of this project, the department also gained important team-building skills, Stafford said.
“We help out and learn something in the process,” Cpl. Anthony Sligh said. “We work as a team and get to know everyone better.”
UPD officers maintained a relaxed working environment away from the office, dripping paint on each other.
“You don’t really know a person until you see them with paint all over them,” officer Edward Wade said. “This is a good bonding experience for us.”
After covering the walls and ceilings of the house with two coats of paint, the UPD volunteers were not the only ones satisfied with the experience.
“This is wonderful, it’s amazing the differences you can see,” the home owner said. “(The new paint) really opens the place up and makes it look much nicer.”
It was the third house UPD has renovated, and officers soon will begin raising money for the fourth project. Finding UPD volunteers to help with the program never is difficult, Stafford said.
“The unique thing about this is that you can visibly see the difference you made in someone’s life,” she said. “That keeps people in the department wanting to do it.”