Painting party removes graffiti

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Peninsula Elementary students volunteered to paint over graffiti Friday on a building near the school.

MOSES LAKE — The first coat of paint wasn’t quite enough. Vandals left graffiti on a building in front of Peninsula Elementary, and while the letters were covered over, it was still possible to read it.

So the crew went back at it. “We don’t want to know what those jerks wrote,” one said.

Peninsula principal Sydney Richins saw the graffiti on her way to work one morning. She took pictures, went around the building and found more, and didn’t like it.

“My first thing is, how can we fix this?” she said.

After thinking it over she approached the building’s owners with a proposal. Richins thought she could get together a crew – of uncertain size but a crew – to paint over the damage, if the owner could supply the paint.

Owner Eric Skaug already had the paint. He too hadn’t liked what he saw, and planned to fix it. He liked Richins’ idea, and gave permission.

The word went out over Peninsula’s social media, inviting kids and parents to a painting party early Friday morning. “How can this bad thing bring out the good in others?” Richins said.

She didn’t know how many kids and parents to expect, especially at 8:30 on a summer Friday morning. But the project attracted about 25 people.

Peninsula students came with their parents, and with older brothers and sisters. Fueled with doughnuts and juice they tackled the damage.

Painting over the actual writing didn’t take long, but the paint on the building was a little weathered and the colors didn’t quite match, and the writing was still faintly visible. So the crew poured more paint, refilled the rollers and started painting over the space between the writing.

The crew attracted the attention of the neighborhood. “Right on,” yelled a man driving by. “Right on.”

Skaug gave the credit to Richins, for coming up with the idea to turn it into a community project. “All I had to do was bring some paint and some tools.” The crew was bigger than he expected, he said, and it’s a good thing to see kids taking pride and ownership in their neighborhood. When kids are involved in their town there are fewer incidents like the graffiti, he said.

Richins said Skaug deserved the credit, power-washing the building to remove debris and allowing the kids to work on the project.

She praised the kids for taking a negative situation and turning it into something positive.

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