Volunteers spruce up BR center for homeless vets

For years, the brick walls of the Raven’s Outreach Center for Homeless Veterans were a drab beige color and the paint was peeling in many places.

That changed on Saturday as an army of more than 250 volunteers from across the Baton Rouge area — black and white, teens and adults — brushed, scraped and painted the entire building at 1913 North St. with a fresh coat of steel-blue paint.

“This is our way of thanking them for their service,” said Samuel Sanders, executive director of Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, the nonprofit group overseeing this all-volunteer project. “We want them to feel like they are a part of the community.”

About 40 homeless veterans live inside the faith-based shelter, named “Raven’s” after the Bible story of how the prophet Elijah was fed by ravens in the wilderness, according to the shelter’s website.

This was phase two of the Raven’s shelter project, Sanders said. Two months ago, volunteers painted another Raven’s shelter building.

After this painting project is completed, they plan to return in a few months to add a large American flag mural to the east side of the building, Sanders said.

Civic groups, ranging from Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church to City Year to recruits from the Youth Challenge, all teamed up with Home Depot, Louisiana Serve Commission and other businesses that provided funding, paint, rollers and brushes.

“It is essential for us to have volunteers because we couldn’t pull off a project like this on our own,” Sanders said.

Jourden Martin, a training leader for City Year Baton Rouge, a local subgroup of AmeriCorps, said 60 members were helping on this project, after serving during the week in local schools.

Leslie Brown Vincent said about 15 young adults and teens from Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church were participating.

“Raven’s is our neighbor, and we want to help our neighbor,” Vincent said. “That’s what we do.”

Shiloh teen Raymond Vincent, 16, was holding a ladder for Tracy Wilson, who was brushing on paint as her daughter Maya Wilson, 17, refilled her mother’s brush.

“I like helping out the community,” Raymond Vincent said.

“I’m doing this for NHS (National Honor Society) hours,” Maya Wilson said.

“And she’s learning that she has to give back and shouldn’t always be on the receiving end,” Tracy Wilson added.

A few feet away, Wayne McClinton, 17, and Bryan Gabriel, 17, were two of 43 young men from the 7th Platoon of Youth Challenge headquartered in Carville.

“I’m in Youth Challenge because I’m trying to better myself,” McClinton said as he climbed a ladder.

“I’m trying to better my life and do better things,” Gabriel said as he steadied the ladder for McClinton.

Rex Cabaniss, a Mid City board member, was up on another ladder a few feet from McClinton and Gabriel.

“Having all these kids out here at 8 o’clock on a Saturday is a great sign,” Cabaniss said. “Look how much we’ve gotten done — it’s amazing. There are even kids up on the roof. This is a well-run and organized effort that otherwise would not take place.”

Inside the shelter, several veterans, some wearing baseball hats declaring their branch of service, were talking about all the activity outside.

Charles Millican, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, said, “Man, this is wonderful that people would take time to help veterans. A lot of the guys in here are disabled. We love it.”

Jerrol Jackson, a Raven’s Center employee, said, “It’s a good thing to see all the kids helping the veterans. It makes them feel appreciated.”

Taylor Baker, 18, Allison Jack, 18, and Lisa Robinson, 19, all Southern University students, were painting the south-facing wall.

“It makes me feel good to be helping people,” said Lisa Robinson. “We’re getting dirty for a good cause.”

“I was in City Year for three years, and I like doing community service,” said Allison Jack. “They served our country so now we can help them.”