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Honoring Veterans with A-Plus Custom Painting

Oct 24, 2016 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Called to Serve

November 2016
By Jordan Venema

Paula and Jake Joosten used to stay in on Sunday nights watching those home makeover shows, and they wondered why they didn’t do something similar for veterans. They talked about it for a while, until their son gave them the motivation they needed.

“About six years ago, my husband wanted to do something, to figure out how to give back to our service men and women. Finally our son Joshua just said, ‘Dad, let’s just do it,’” says Paula.

That’s all it took. So they did. 

Jake and Paula have owned A-Plus Custom Painting for about 25 years, so they figured they had the know-how and the means to give something back. They just needed somebody to give to.

Six years ago the Joostens painted the exterior of a home for a local veteran, starting what has since become the nonprofit Paint It Forward for Heroes. But back then, it wasn’t really an organization – it was just something they did on their own “and with the help of a gentleman by the name of Chris, who has worked with us for 20 years, and who has helped every year since. Otherwise it was just Jake,” she adds. “And our son, too.”

In its early stages, there wasn’t much fanfare, and few donations. Not many people knew about the project. “There was quite a bit of out-of-pocket expense for the first couple years,” admits Paula, “but you know what, would we do it again. We paid for paint out of our pockets for a couple years, but the last couple years, Kelly-Moore Paints has donated.”

Paint It Forward is straightforward. Each fall, the Joostens and other volunteers paint the exterior of a veteran’s home, and then provide a celebratory barbecue at the home on Veterans Day. For the Joostens, it’s their way of saying “thank you.” 

Veterans are nominated through an application found on the A-Plus Custom Paint website, then nonprofit board members narrow down nominees until they pick one veteran.

“It’s a real tough decision,” Paula says, “and none is more deserving than the other. If my husband could, he would be painting an exterior of a veteran’s home every day of the week.”

Once the board selects a nominee, painting begins before October, “in time to finish before Veterans Day,” says Paula. “That way we can all just enjoy the day, and fellowship.” 

For the party, food is donated by Quality Meats, and “prior winners come out, and the winners themselves and their families are there of course,” says Paula. “Some people stop by and I don’t even know who they are. They just come by to pay their respects.” 

“It’s definitely becoming a community event, and we’re hoping as we grow that we become even more of a community event.” 

Locals are stepping up in other ways to pay their respects, too. Promise FM provides free advertising, and stores like Lowe’s have provided materials. The owner of Idea Printing has helped with advertising, while others are willing to pick up a paintbrush and lend a hand.

On the surface, Paint It Forward might appear like a simple touch up and makeover, but the Joostens say, “If it’s not for them, our veterans, we wouldn’t have our freedoms today.”

And while even the Joostens agree that our veterans deserve much more, she says the recipients of Paint It Forward have been surprised by the gesture.

“Our first-year winner,  he was so humble,” Paula says. “They are all humble. But he kept asking us, ‘Why me? Why me?’ And then my son said, ‘But why not you?’”

That’s a question the Joostens plan to keep asking, and hope others begin asking, as well.

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