For Pete Montoya, the shoe was on the other foot Saturday. For nearly three-quarters of a century, Montoya has been serving others.
But Saturday, top-echelon city officials turned out to help him - by painting his home at 840 Montague, where he has lived for 26 years. The brigade of painters was part of the Paint Your Heart Out Project and included Mayor Palmer DePaulis; Mike Zuhl, DePaulis' chief of staff; Police Chief Mike Chabries; Lance Bateman, finance director; and Linda Hamilton, city council director, along with some 45 other city employees."I've never met anyone like him," said Montoya's next-door neighbor and friend, Rep. Joanne Milner, D-Salt Lake. "He does things for people. He literally goes out of his way to help others. He's 75, has 10 children, and he doesn't talk about being a Christian, he is one," said Milner. "And now it's our turn to serve him."
Montoya suffered a stroke earlier this summer while working as a volunteer on a beautification project sponsored by Neighborhood Housing Services - the same organization that sponsors Paint Your Heart Out, said Milner. "Pete was working for days planting a flower garden along Ninth South when he had his stroke."
Milner said that because Montoya had planned before his stroke to paint his home this summer, she saw this as an opportunity to thank Montoya for all the unselfish service he has rendered others.
More than 50 city employees showed up to paint the "good neighbor's" home.
Robert Cordova, an employee from the Department of Transportation, traded his shift so he could paint. "It's a good project and you get a good feeling when you help others," Cordova said. "Like they say, `what goes around, comes around', and if everyone pitches in a little, we can really make a difference in someone's life."
Awed at the sight of so many, Mary Montoya said, "Look how beautiful our house is . . . we've never had anything like this done for us before . . . we don't even know these people . . . who are all these people anyway?"
When told the mayor and the chief of police were among the many painters, Mary Montoya said she didn't even recognize them. "They look so different with their painting clothes on."
Although Pete Montoya had wanted to paint the house himself, the grandfather of 35 and great-grandfather of nine had to admit, "It looks easier watching them (the volunteers) do it, and I don't even have to get my hands dirty."
"We've had such wonderful response from the different departments," said Tamara Wharton, Salt Lake City volunteer coordinator. "It's great to see the dedication of the volunteers; they work long hours during the week and yet they are still willing to get up early Saturday morning and go to work again - this time without pay. Our employees are really committed."
Rosemary Davis, director of capital planning, said, "Getting this many volunteers to come on their own time says something about their commitment to the city. Our city officials don't just put in their eight hours, then go home and forget what the city is all about."
Through misty eyes Pete and Mary Montoya watched as DePaulis hung a new mailbox - a gift from the volunteers. "The old one looked as if it has been there since the beginning of time," said the volunteer who passed the hat for donations. "It would be a shame to put the old mailbox back when the house looks so bright and new."
Meanwhile, across the street, some four dozen members of Parleys Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints painted the home of Jay and Claris Nielson.
"I worked on the West Side Council when this project was first started," said the now-retired Claris Nielson, but never dreamed I'd be a recipient. "It really improves the neighborhood and helps the volunteers doing the project as much as the homeowner."
"The success of this project is due in part to the massive voluntarism," Administrative Assistant Michele Hutchins said of the more than 400 people who turned out to paint 22 homes of senior citizens who cannot, for health or financial reasons, do the work themselves.
"The supplies are donated, but the volunteers come and bring their own paint brushes, ladders, rags and newspapers or drop cloths to catch the drips," said Hutchins.
"We even bring our own radios," said another painter. "It doesn't take long to paint a house when so many enthusiastic people can paint to the upbeat of the music."
The Paint Your Heart Out project is in its fourth year. "Every year gets bigger and better," said Hutchins.