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A special coat of paint

Sauk Valley Unite transforms five houses in Sterling, Rock Falls

ROCK FALLS – Five Sterling and Rock Falls homes got a free and fresh coat of paint today from Sauk Valley Unite.

Homeowner Judy Agraves can't handle a project of this magnitude on her own, so "this means a lot," she said. "I can't afford to do it and I'm just too old," Agraves said.

Her house at 803 Leroy Ave. in Rock Falls, is one of the first things people see when they round the corner. That first impression is important, she said.

"I always want my home to look nice. My father used to say that your shoes and car represent how the inside of your house looks like."

The 73-year-old retiree is herself a giver: She's volunteered as a foster grandmother for the Tri-Counties Opportunity Council, mentoring at-risk youth.

She bought the property 12 years ago, when she started volunteering, as her retirement home.

Seven area churches united to form Sauk Valley Unite, a new house-painting mission for kids in grades eight through 12: Bethel Reformed, St. Paul’s Lutheran, Sterling St. John’s Lutheran, First Presbyterian, First Christian, and Grace Episcopal, all in Sterling, and Emmanuel Lutheran in Rock Falls.

In this first year, they chose to paint five homes, free of charge to those physically or financially unable to do so themselves.

One of the Unite crew members is 14-year-old Elise Mireles, Agraves' granddaughter.

"I've never painted a house before; it's a different experience," said Elise, who's glad that she gets to help out her grandmother.

"I don't usually do things like this, but I'm glad that we get to help out others in the community," she said.

As part of the mission, the kids are staying at Bethel Reformed, where after-hours they are treated to a full slate of worshipping and games. Musician Rachel Kurtz ( will perform and speak.

Rana Smith, Unite's coordinator, said she hopes to keep doing this year after year. Unite got about 20 homeowner applicants, but only enough kids to tackle five at a time.

Agraves is grateful she was one of the five.

"I was so happy when I found out that I was picked. They have done an amazing job, and they are really great people."

More information

Find Sauk Valley Unite on Facebook, go to or contact Rana Smith at or 815-718-5633 for more information on Sauk Valley Unite.

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