Meagan Cook was among the volunteers from Second Avenue United Methodist Church helping paint a house on Sixth Avenue this week as part of Altoona's Gateway renovation project.
She was once a renovation project herself.
At 26, she is thriving with a husband and 3-year-old daughter, but as a kid, Cook moved around with her family a lot.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Paula Campbell of State College is one of a dozen members of Second Avenue United Methodist Church who are volunteering to paint a house at 915 Sixth Ave. as part of Altoona’s Gateway Improvement Project. Materials have been provided by the city and paid for from donations.
There was alcohol and abuse, and sometimes they lived in shelters.
A friend introduced her to the church through its vacation Bible school at 14, and she began attending a youth program there called The Rock.
She had to swallow her pride, but she met youth group leaders, the pastor and parents of friends who mentored her, and eventually felt as if she had a dozen parents.
At age 15, she became desperate to get away from her family, realizing by then that the way she was raised was not normal.
Her sister moved away with another family and her mother, stepfather and three younger siblings got evicted from a house that should have been condemned and began "camping out," showering at a local pool.
Cook moved in with a family from church and lived there for the rest of her high school days.
That's how she learned to be an adult and to be a Christian, she said.
By the time she was in 10th or 11th grade, she "dove in" to church life.
"I couldn't get enough," she said.
She began teaching classes, joined a youth group, attended church services and got into "the thick of things."
She learned the pleasures of giving back.
Helping others through church work such as scraping and painting for a low-income family on Sixth Avenue is "like coming full-circle," she said.
"If we have the resources, time and ability, why not?" she said. "It should be a way of life."
Pastor Matt Lake's congregation helped last year on the Gateway project and this year painted three houses in the neighborhood of the church that were not referred as part of the Gateway project.
The group plans to paint at least the front and side most visible from the street of the Gateway house, which is on the 900 block of Sixth Avenue.
The city is providing the paint and some brushes. The congregation is providing the labor and ladders.
The city sent notices of violation to the owners of 38 properties in the code sweep on Sixth and Seventh avenues.
Twenty-four applied for help and proved they were eligible because of low-to-moderate income, project coordinator Maryann Pellegrine said.
Of those, three have completed necessary work with the help of materials provided by the city and paid for by donations from businesses and groups.
Three or four others have begun porch repairs or siding jobs with the help of city-provided materials.
The Blair County Democrats started painting a house that the Second Avenue Church will complete, and the Blair County Republicans plan to paint one in August.
Two other volunteer groups took information enabling them to decide on a manageable project and two owners are waiting for material to begin work themselves, Pellegrine said.
The city is still looking for volunteers, especially those willing to climb ladders.