It all started in 1998, when Pat Lund was working for a non-profit in Minneapolis and both Gwen and Dick were mid-way through their careers at Valspar, a global leader in paint headquartered in Minneapolis."Valspar met with Stephen Seidel (Executive Director of TCHFH in 1998) and you kind of saw this light bulb go off," says Gwen. Gwen had been involved with Habitat through paint donations and was key in getting the partnership with Valspar launched.
Valspar and TCHFH started a pilot program to test the idea of doing home restoration work and offering paint and repair to help struggling low-income families. They hired Pat to create the program structure and business plan. "At the time, Habitat for Humanity was only building homes," says Pat. "But we saw a community need that wasn't being met."
Dick and Gwen were instrumental in making the program a success. "They set the standards for how we run a site right from the very beginning," says Pat. They were so organized that ABWK was able to paint and fix 64 homes that first year. After that, there was no turning back.
Good ideas are hard to keep secret and it wasn't long before the leaders at Habitat for Humanity International were closely watching the success of ABWK in the Twin Cities. In 2007, Pat, Gwen and Dick began helping other Habitat affiliates start their own programs and to date have helped over 200 affiliates keep families in a safe, healthy home.
Today over half of Habitat affiliates in the country perform repair work for existing low-income homeowners along with their traditional homebuilding programs. "In my wildest dreams I never would have imagined that it would have grown this large," says Gwen.
Dick and Gwen have personally volunteered on dozens of ABWK projects over the years. "I like to paint," says Dick. I liked using our product to help families and encourage the beautification of entire neighborhoods. Little things like this go a long way." Now both Gwen and Dick are easing their way into retirement from Valspar. Yet both will continue their involvement with Habitat and their legacy through A Brush with Kindness.