Volunteers offer help to theater, other sites

JOHNSTOWN – A group of spirited local volunteers is making a difference in the city.

The volunteers are taking on projects in the community with the help of local businesses, including paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore.

Sprucing up the historic Colonial Little Theatre downtown is the first “test” project being tackled at this time, said volunteer Anita Hanaburgh.

Volunteers are starting with the theater facelift and will see if the project leads to work at other sites.

“The CLT is really blossoming. It really is kind of fun because it’s turning them around,” Hanaburgh said.

The ongoing theater project is being dubbed “TLC for the CLT.”

Hanaburgh’s husband, Brian, was one of the several workers spotted this past week painting the old theater with the help of Benjamin Moore, which has a plant in the Johnstown Industrial Park. The company not only donated paint for the project, but manpower as well. Plant Manager Paul Connelie was one of those with a paintbrush in hand.

“Audrey Kline and Anita Hanaburgh reached out to me,” Connelie said. “Certainly, Johnstown has been good for Benjamin Moore, and we want to help by giving back to Johnstown and the community.”

Connelie is one of several volunteers from the paint company helping to refurbish the old venue. He said the company had donated at least 25 gallons of paint to the cause by midweek.

Community volunteers and Benjamin Moore employees already have painted the CLT’s dressing room, main-room ceiling, main-room walls and kitchen walls. Also due to be done is painting for duct work, finishing and touching up the ceiling, main-room walls and kitchen walls, sweeping and sealing the theater floor and painting the floor.

Anita Hanaburgh said about 10 Johnstown residents decided they would like to help make the Colonial City more beautiful. She said the group of friends contacted Benjamin Moore and Connelie “listened to us” – not only with supplies, but manpower as well. She said the company donated all the paint and brushes.

Hanaburgh said this initial community effort is a story of three groups – the volunteers, a group from the theater, which has done other restoration work, and the Benjamin Moore group.

Hanaburgh explained a group of friends, mostly from Johnstown, were talking about the city.

“All of us love the place and felt that we would like to clean up the areas in need of paint,” she said. “‘I just want to paint the place myself’ was said many times. Then we thought, why not?”

She said a few of the friends decided to look into ways this might happen, calling themselves “Paint the Town.” By the time Kline and Hanaburgh reached out to Connelie, the plan was coming together.

Hanaburgh said Connelie indicated he had been looking for a community-service project and would gladly help with paint, equipment, advice and volunteers.

“Benjamin Moore is an essential part of this community, giving paint not only to this project, but to numerous other community projects as well,” she said.

She said the 150-year-old Colonial Little Theatre was the ideal initial choice.

“The Colonial Little Theatre was a good choice to start with because they wanted our help and are proactive in getting things done,” Hanaburgh said. “They are starting with the downstairs, which has recently been cleaned out, dried up and has gotten a new kitchen. We don’t think the community realizes what a gem they have in this theater.”

Leta Aldous, chairwoman of the Colonial Little Theatre board, was instrumental in getting it all together. She told the local volunteer group the theater has worked hard over the past few years to make sure it puts on quality performances, despite appearances in places such as the dressing room and reception room.

In four years, the theater has also done much work, including getting rid of mold, and putting up new walls, ceilings and lights. Also, a new kitchen counter was installed.

Hanaburgh said the theater requested help painting the dressing room and reception room in the lower level initially.

Meanwhile, the volunteers have been scurrying to finish work before the first production on April 24, “Return Engagements,” directed by Lisa Weiderman.

Hanaburgh said the group assessed the work and set work days. Kline, of Audrey’s Classic Designs, worked with the theater to select the Benjamin Moore colors, settling on a sunny cream for a base color to brighten the area.

The core group of volunteers – Hanaburgh, Kline, Joe Salamack, Leslie Foss, Deb Callery, Lisa McCoy, Bonnie Valchovic, Patsy Suydam, Aldous and theater volunteers – began by cleaning up the old dust from years of stored items and the new dust from wallboard.

“It was actually fun and very rewarding, dusting off theater props from typewriters to bird cages,” Hanaburgh said.

With this project, Hanaburgh said, “Paint the Town” is now ready to see if there is community interest in the volunteer effort.

“The response has been less than expected, but we know there is more interest,” she said. “It’s winter and a lot of people are away.”

Hanaburgh said a new project might need project leaders, painters, fundraisers, carpenters, gardeners and money.

Those interested can send their information and ideas to paintthetownjohnstown@gmail.com.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.