Making a difference in a day

[masterslider id=”209″]


It’s late afternoon Saturday and Bonnie Stackhouse walks to the front lawn of her neighbors’ home to give out thanks and hugs.

The 81-year-old has lived with her husband Willie in the same house on Saint Paul Street in Denver for 52 years.

“It looks so different after seeing it pink for so long – what a difference a paint job makes,” she said. “They really needed it. I feel so bad for them, they are such good people and they really could use the help.”

Her neighbors’ house has a fresh coat of paint and an improved yard, after a Colorado State University team of staff members, Construction Management students, alumni and friends participated in a day-long project through the Denver non-profit Extreme Community Makeover.

The home’s owners, Tessie and Joe Medina, have lived in their 2-bed, 1-bath home for nearly 45 years.

Lately, though, they have a hard time doing work around the house.

Joe, 89, is battling stage-four esophageal cancer, and Tessie, 78, is in remission and cares for her husband in-home.

Joe and Tessie sit on the couch with the family’s 8-year-old Chihuahua mix, Foxie. The couple pulls out a family photo book of their late daughter, their son, their grandkids, and great grandchildren on a roadtrip to Arizona – Tessie comments that she’s excited to tell her family about the house not being pink anymore.

“It looks nice, you guys did a really good job,” said Tessie, who requested Martha Stewart’s Buckwheat Flour as a color after having a pink house for 10 years. “I’m so glad it’s not pink anymore. It really is beautiful now.”

CM Cares gives back

The project included seven CSU students from the CM Cares team, a volunteer group of Construction Management students, who do start-to-finish renovation projects for families in need in Fort Collins and Denver, and take part in service opportunities like the one at the Medina’s home.

The Medina’s home before.

“Being a student, I don’t have money to give back at this time, but if I can make time in my schedule to help someone out, that’s how I can make the world just a little bit better,” said Aaron Peterson, a 24-year-old junior Construction Management major.

The CSU work group cleared weeds, removed trash, and trimmed trees on four properties on the block.

At the Medina’s home, the students power-washed the house, scraped old paint, and led the full exterior paint job. Volunteering has become a core passion for the students.

“I joined construction management so I could leave my mark on the world,” said Katie Lowe, 24, a senior in Construction Management. “This project is a great way to have a really positive impact.”

Fellow Construction Management major Alex Romero agreed.

The Medina’s home after the makeover project.

“This is something I know how to do,” said the 22-year-old senior. “And if I can help people that may not be able to do it themselves – that’s my ‘why.’”

The next generation of volunteers

Kendra Geary and her brother Braidon both attend Wilder Elementary School and are excited to tell their friends about the volunteer work they did at the Medina’s home.

“I’ll tell them that I helped people with their house and it was bright pink, and I got to paint a shed,” said Kendra, an 8-year-old third grader. Kendra said she volunteered: “because I like helping people” and that it made her happy.

Kendra’s kid brother, 5-year-old Braidon, said helping made him feel good and that he’ll tell his friends in Kindergarten: “the shed was bright pink and I helped my sister and my mom paint it because I like to help people who need help.”

The two siblings wanted to meet the family, and knocked on the front door with a volunteer.

Joe’s cancer makes it painful for him to speak, but when the children entered the Medina’s family room, he smiled and quietly told Kendra and Braidon: “thank you so very much.”

Connecting communities

Kendra and Braidon Geary help roll a new coat of paint onto the Medinas’ house.

Angela Bomgaars, executive director of Extreme Community Makeover, loves to watch the domino effect of the organization’s community projects. Since 2008, the non-profit has worked on about 2,000 homes in Denver neighborhoods.

“One of the reasons this is so important is because it gives people the opportunity to know that someone cares about them,” Bomgaars said. “When they feel that someone cares, it encourages them, and encourages the community – it really gets people out there connecting.”

The connections are also important to CSU. As an equity partner of the planned National Western Center, CSU has made a long-term commitment to be a part of this community.

“CSU is going to be close by at the National Western Center and we want to continue building good neighbor relationships and addressing needs,” said Jocelyn Hittle, Director of Denver Programming for the CSU System.

As she brushes white paint on the trim of a window screen, Hittle adds: “It’s been great to get out into the community and see how this work helps.”

For next door neighbor Bonnie Stackhouse, the project is about even more than a nicer view when she looks out her window, it’s about the impact the effort made. She gives out hugs to the volunteers as they finish their day.

“You don’t find too many young people who want to do anything like this anymore,” she said. “It looks so beautiful – it’s just so nice that you all were here to help.”

Colorado State University and the National Western Center

Colorado State University has made a long-term commitment to the reimagining of the National Western Center in North Denver, and the communities surrounding the project. Efforts are under way to create partnerships with community schools, non-profits and businesses, and to actively engage in the community.

A key and founding partner in the National Western Center, CSU will have three buildings within the 250-acre campus upon completion. The project, which will break ground in the coming years, expands and regenerates the current National Western Stock Show site, turning it into a vibrant, year-round experiential, community-centric, life-long learning destination in the heart of Denver.

As Colorado’s land-grant university, CSU’s mission of research, service, and access, fits with the outreach mission of the National Western Center. CSU’s plans at the new campus focus on research and education programming in the areas of food systems, water, environment, energy and health. The university has initiated programming and service outreach efforts before buildings are constructed, as part of its commitment to the area. For additional information, visit