FirstEnergy lineman Cliff Perren is accustomed to being hoisted 10 feet off the ground in a bucket truck.
But he normally uses tools rather than a paint brush to do his work.
Perren was among the volunteers who painted the Wash House on the grounds of the historic Perkins Mansion in Akron on Friday with the help of two bucket trucks provided by FirstEnergy for the higher-up spots.
“Aside from being in the air, this is quite a bit different,” Perren said as he paused from brushing white paint on the exterior of the 124-year-old house.
Perren was among about 60 volunteers from FirstEnergy Corp. and the Summit County Historical Society who repainted the Wash House and made other improvements on the grounds of the Perkins Mansion, 550 Copley Road.
The project was part of the annual United Way Day of Action Friday, which set a record with nearly 1,400 volunteers working on 90 projects across Summit County. The volunteers, who hailed from 63 companies and agencies, performed landscaping, painting and cleaning projects.
“This is spectacular,” said Bob Kulinski, president and CEO of United Way of Summit County. He stopped by the Wash House site Friday afternoon as well as other projects from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Barberton.
“We have a flagship company and a flagship historic landmark,” he said. “I really appreciate the preservation aspect that the FirstEnergy volunteers are helping with.”
The Wash House project was made possible by a National Painting Week Ohio Grant that Keep Akron Beautiful and the historical society received from Keep Ohio Beautiful. The new grant, which enables volunteers to renew a community structure, provided 40 gallons of exterior paint and painting supplies, plus free advice from a Sherwin Williams employee.
The Wash House, which was used for washing laundry and then as a bath house for the Perkins family and friends who were enjoying an in-ground pool, was partially repainted three years ago. It was last completely redone a decade ago, said Leianne Neff Heppner, the historical society’s president.
“It’s really exciting to get so many people here,” Heppner said. “We really can’t afford to have the work done if we have to pay for it.”
Final Coat of Akron volunteers cleaned, scraped and primed the Wash House to get it ready for Friday. Day of Action volunteers arrived at 9 a.m.; in addition to painting the building, they also painted inside the buildings on the Perkins grounds, landscaped and packed away artifacts that the historical society plans to store.
This is the 10th year FirstEnergy has volunteered to help the historical society.
Pam Fickey, an executive assistant at FirstEnergy, has helped every year except for one and has recruited her co-workers. She and three colleagues painted a replica of the gazebo that once stood on the other side of the in-ground pool from the Wash House.
“It’s been a wonderful day with wonderful people,” said Kyle Wood, who helped with the gazebo painting. “I actually like these people — outside of work.”
Aubrey Short, a generation dispatcher for FirstEnergy, brought along her children, Jillian, 13, and Darian, 16, who helped spread mulch, pick weeds and sweep on the grounds.
“It’s good for them to give back to the community,” said Short who lives in Clinton and works in Akron. “It’s turning out very nice.”
The project will help prepare the Perkins Mansion campus for the historical society’s 90th anniversary celebration July 12, which will feature games and activities of the 1920s era, including free tours and antique appraisals, music, a hobo camp, a dunk tank, classic cars, a cake walk, and food and beverages available for sale. Proceeds will benefit the historical society’s educational programs.
Of the four groups across Ohio that received painting grants, two will get another $500 gift card for demonstrating the best visual impact and revitalization story. Keep Akron Beautiful and historical society officials took before- and after-photos of the Wash House to show off the results of the project.
“We are hoping for that,” said Jacqui Flaherty, Keep Akron Beautiful’s program manager. “We have a lot of painting to be done.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.