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Paint the Town Project Brings Highland Park Home Back to Life

The nearly century-old home on Avenue 53 is glowing again thanks to the efforts of local volunteers.

Jo O’Key wanted to do something for Highland Park, and she wanted to get it done quickly.

An agent for Brock Real Estate who moved to the neighborhood from Eagle Rock about a year ago, O’Key was looking for a way to immerse herself into the community.

From that desire, Paint the Town was born—an effort to locate and repaint a Highland Park home through help of local volunteers and businesses.

O’Key's idea, only two months in the making, was brought to fruition this past weekend, as a band of volunteers went to work with sanders, brushes and rollers to restore a nearly century-old home on South Avenue 53 to its original beauty.

“It goes to show that if get a bunch of people rolling up their sleeves and applying some elbow grease, you can really get things done,” O’Key said. “I love the people of Highland Park, they came out of the woodwork to help.”

Local business owners Cathi Milligan and Julie Montenegro were crucial to bringing the effort together with such speed, O’Key said. Milligan, owner of the Glass Studio, took less than a week to create a flier calling for applicants, and Montenegro distributed them alongside the ads for her State Farm insurance office.

“Nothing was too difficult for Julie,” said O’Key, who also credited Montenegro for making sure the fliers and applications were translated into Spanish.

O’Key was able to find the perfect house with the help of Highland Park Heritage Trust member Tina Gulotta-Miller, who said she had been hoping to help restore the 1924 Victorian Vernacular at 141 S. Ave. 53 since 2006.

Gulotta-Miller has been instrumental in organizing revitalization projects in nearby Garvanza and was looking to kick-start a project in Highland Park’s historic district.

 “I wanted to find something in Highland Park to show that those two districts really do care for each other,” she said.

Her efforts had long been stalled due to the faltering economy, which made business owners less willing to donate supplies and funds to the restoration effort.

 O’Key, though, would not be deterred, and enlisted a slew of local sponsors, which even included competing real estate agents.

“Some of them even showed up to the house on Saturday and helped out,” Gulotta-Miller said.

Other donations included $1,000 from Ryan Ballinger, owner of the York.

O'Key said she hopes to continue the Paint the Town Project so she can to work on the numerous other applications that were received during this round.

More than bringing a house back to life, she said, Paint the Town is an effort to bring together a community that can often be divided by the neighborhood’s ongoing economic and cultural transition.

 “I wanted to do something for existing community, so they could embrace and be a part of gentrification, rather than being pushed away,” she said. “And, I wanted to provide the newcomers a chance to give back to their new community.”

As for the home's owner of more than 40 year, Angelita Mora, the fresh coat of ivory and blueberry paint "was like a dream."

"I feel great, it's like a family," Mora said. "They didn't look like they were doing it because they had to; everyone was having fun."

carol van beek October 29, 2012 at 10:44 PM
WOW! What a transformation. And what a jewel of a house. This is the first that I've heard of Paint the Town. Count me in to help on the next project.
Tina Gulotta-Miller October 30, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Charles E Miller......we got it done after so long and it came out great!!! Bring me art and beauty anytime and I will put my soul into the project. I love Highland Park for the amazing people that live here! Thank you for volunteering and showing up ready to work. Everyone made a difference! Charles Miller, Harvey Slater, Bill Baker, Trish Gossett, Janet Dodson, Rosa Rivas, Destiny, Gretchen Knudsen, Emily, Jo O'Key, Cathi Milligan, Jo's boyfriend, Jose Gardea/George Megallanos for lunch, Jesse Rosas for pupusas and others that I may not know their names but came and gave of their time, thank-you. And finally, the Mora family, specifically Angelita...she was an angel and wonderful recipient of this amazing transformation. We thank her for accepting this project and turning over her home to all of us for three days and a fourth counting this morning. My guilty pleasure was the 1924 Douglas Fir front door transformation. The single piece of beveled glass that has stood the test of time. A job well done.
Lauren October 30, 2012 at 05:29 AM
I love Highland Park and preserving its history too! Please keep us updated as to when another "paint the town" event happens. I would love to participate! Let's keep our community together and beautiful!!!
El Cid October 30, 2012 at 06:04 AM
Fantastic! Here is something worthwhile, long-term improvement helping a long time Highland Park resident! CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERYONE INVOLVED!
Nimby pimp October 30, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Three cheers to everyone involved! NELA is lucky to have such aesthetically minded and active citizens!
Nimby pimp October 30, 2012 at 04:11 PM
We are fortunate to have citizens like these in our midst. Hats off to them!
ChickenBoyFan October 30, 2012 at 05:26 PM
CD1 has so many of these types of buried treasures. The Monte Vista corridor is one. I'm sorry, but having another "block party", with a dismal petting zoo, and balloons for the children just doesn't cut it when it comes to long term change. La Tropicana Market is a one man army of helping to raise the profile of the corridor. If CD1 has any concern for the future safety, and walkability of this beautiful buried treasure, they should bow down before Queen Rayna, of La Tropicana Market, and throw money and city crews at her. She is the bright light of that area. It's profile could blow away York Blvd, if enough attention were paid to it. CD1 shout out: "Jose Gardea, you are the bomb, and hopefully the future. Let's get busy." We know you love us. Cluck-a-doodle-doo.
Culturevator October 30, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Where did these people come from? Where do we sign up to volunteer for the next one? Is there a plan for more gardens in the area, too? That little house looks incredible.
Charles Miller October 30, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Carol, Culturevator - there is a Facebook page for Paint the Town to like and watch for the next opportunity. https://www.facebook.com/PaintTheTownLA
Tina Gulotta-Miller October 30, 2012 at 11:24 PM
@Carol......getting involved with Paint the Town is definitely one way to bring positive change. It was a great experience. Also, check out Garvanza Improvement Association on Facebook. Anything can get accomplished if we work together. Revitalized homes, beautiful gardens, quality schools, more amenities and getting to know your neighbors is an amazing experience through community efforts that bring long term rewards.

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