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Heroes of the Historic House

One of the benefits of working at the village is that our offices are in historic houses. As curator, I get a whole cottage all to myself. It has something to do with my habit of stacking accumulated stuff everywhere-I need a lot of space. For years, my house has been the ugliest office in the village, with peeling paint, holes in the siding, and places on the porch where I had to warn people not to step.
Today it is the prettiest, thanks to the efforts of three preservation heroes, and to a job training program at the Stewpot, a resource center for homeless and at –risk individuals. Their Stewpot Transitional Employment Program, STEP, places clients in jobs where they can learn new skills. One thing we never have a shortage of around the village is jobs needing doing, so what could be a more perfect match? STEP participants Leon Pollard and Cornelious Brackens Jr. faced off against the eyesore that was the curator’s house, and were victorious.
They didn’t do it alone. The third hero of this story is Dallas preservation contractor Ron Siebler. Among the many nice things he does for the village, he agreed to oversee the STEP workers and provide their training in building arts. He gave them each their own box of tools and visited every day to share his hard-won knowledge of how to treat a historic structure.
After minor repairs, the main job was to paint the house in yellow, green and brown. Painting seems so easy. People who would never fix their own plumbing do their own painting all the time. And soon thereafter, they often watch the paint bubble and peel and undo all of their efforts. Ron taught Leon and Cornelious how to put off that depressing day as long as possible by doing proper preparation and paint application. And yes, that is exactly as boring as it sounds. Getting the old paint off took uncounted hours of scraping and sanding. Leon and Cornelious came back day after day to the same tedium, and I would wager are now prepared to win a scraping and sanding contest. Only when that was done to Ron’s satisfaction did the painting proceed.
It was worth the effort. The new paint went on smooth and clean, and will last as long as paint can last. Leon and Cornelious are justifiably proud of their accomplishment and of the skills they learned. They can let future employers know that they were entrusted with a project at a museum. On Tuesday, September 17, representatives from the village and the Stewpot gathered to commemorate the completed project and present Leon and Cornelious with certificates and our thanks. The village is grateful for the beautiful paint job and the opportunity to see two great guys master new skills and improve their futures. We are also grateful that the Stewpot and Ron Siebler made it possible. We hope to have more such work projects in the future, as funding become available.
If you would like to donate to this continuing collaborative project, please contact Lisa Simpson at lsimpson@dallasheritagevillge.com or 214-413-3662. Gifts of any size can make a difference.
For more information about the Stewpot and its STEP program, go to http://www.thestewpot.org/enterprises.asp. To learn about Ron Siebler’s work in historic preservation, go to http://www.siebler.com/.

Curator Evelyn and her heroes, from left, Cornelious, Leon and Ron.

Curator Evelyn and her heroes, from left, Cornelious, Leon and Ron.

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