Senior Moments from H.O.M.E.

Volunteers paint, make friends and change lives

Posted by Michael Laz on Jun 20, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Summer is here and the time is right for dancing in the streets or, in our case, for painting houses.  Every summer, with the help of dedicated volunteers from faith-based youth groups, corporations and schools, we are able to paint rooms in seniors' homes, brightening and freshening the living spaces and making them more comfortable places for the seniors and others.

But these groups do more than just add a coat of paint to homes as they volunteer to help the elderly. As one of our clients said after rooms in her home were painted:

Thanks to the hard work from these wonderful youngsters I can invite people over again because I am not ashamed of my home.


How it all started

Our painting program harkens back to a time that our founders, Michel and Lilo Salmon, described as “the most productive, the most unique, the most helpful and by far the dirtiest two years of [H.O.M.E.’s] existence.” In the late 1980s, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development withheld funds for the maintenance and upkeep of all Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) properties.

This severely limited the units available to H.O.M.E.’s clients and other seniors, despite many vacancies in CHA senior buildings. The Salmons negotiated an arrangement with CHA in which H.O.M.E. would clean and paint senior apartments throughput the city at no cost to CHA. Over the next two years, an army of volunteers and staff cleaned and painted over 1,000 senior apartments.

The Painting Program for Seniors today

Flash forward a couple of decades, and Catholic HEART Workcamp is returning for their sixth painting season with us, in what has been an enriching partnership for all involved.  SHINE Catholic Work Camp and Experience Mission have also worked with us in the past few years, and we are thrilled to welcome YouthWorks as a new painting partner this year.  

These volunteer groups provide all the paint and materials needed for each painting project. Without their generosity and enthusiastic support, this program would not be possible.

One of the most gratifying aspects of our painting program is connecting seniors with great young people who are working in their homes. Promoting and nurturing intergenerational relationships is central to our mission. 

Volunteers paint, and so much more

Painting_volunteers.jpgIn the beginning, when I inform seniors that there will be a group of young people coming into their home for a few days, there is often initial apprehension. But after some gentle coaxing (by me), they agree to give it a try. 

Once the kids are there, it only takes a few hours before a positive relationship has developed. By day two, the senior is baking cookies and having lunch with the kids. 

In the end when the work is done, I have been an eyewitness to e-mails and addresses being exchanged so the volunteers and seniors can keep in touch with each other - intergenerational friendships in the making!  

If you think you would like to participate in this enriching program please contact Mike Laz at 773-295-2709 or

Tell me more about how to get involved

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Topics: volunteer