Students Give Local Resident's Home a Makeover

WC Takes on 'Personal and Specific' Project for Annual Make a Difference Day

November 7, 2012

Chelsea Simpson paints the front of Tamara Wilson Rollins' house on Thorne Ave. as one of the numerous volunteers for WC's Make a Difference Day project.

Chelsea Simpson paints the front of Tamara Wilson Rollins' house on Thorne Ave. as one of the numerous volunteers for WC's Make a Difference Day project.


Featured in Sherwin-Williams’ palette of paint colors is a hue called “fun yellow.” Tamara Wilson Rollins prefers to call it “optimistic joy” because that’s precisely what Wilmington College students and staff members have given her.

The College selected Rollins’ Thorne Ave. home for its Make a Difference Day project.

Tara Lydy said, rather than sending WC’s legions of volunteers to work throughout the community as they do with the Quake day of service each spring, they wanted this fall’s project to be “personal and specific.”

“Tami has lived her life giving to others — she’s a giver,” said Lydy, director of the College’s Center for Service and Civic Engagement. “We wanted to give back to her.”

Indeed, Rollins, a retired social worker on disability, regularly participates in College events. The 1977 alumnus has been involved with numerous programs highlighting Black History and Women’s History Month observances, in addition to speaking in classes and sharing her considerable musical talents at sporting events and Martin Luther King Day activities.

(LEFT) The freshly painted home stands out against an early November blue sky.

Rollins’ home was in need of what she described as a “facelift” so, over the past week, volunteers scraped and painted, trimmed hedges, planted mums and renovated her front porch by reinforcing the structure and installing a new light fixture, storm door and mailbox.

“This truly has been a godsend — I’m so appreciative for what has been done,” she said. “Everyone’s been so nice and kind. I say, ‘Thank God.’ It really was an answer to a prayer.”

Sophomore Chelsea Simpson was a regular volunteer throughout the project. “It makes me feel humble and good that I can help someone that’s always helping others,” Simpson said, noting that she came out on days when she had a few free hours.

Joe Njeru, a freshman from Kenya, had a dual motivation for his involvement. “I needed some service hours for my Global Issues class requirement and I just wanted to help out,” he said.

Freshman Brandon Ballentine was masking around windows in preparation for painting trim. “Tara asked for volunteers and a few of us lacrosse players wanted to help,” he added.

In addition to College students, staff and its Grow Food, Grow Hope AmeriCorps volunteers, local entities including Servicemaster, Ace Hardware, Sherwin-Williams Paints, Lowe’s, WC’s Physical Plant and Sodexo, all donated goods and/or services for the project.

(RIGHT) A cadre of WC volunteers scrape paint on the first day of the project.

The fresh coat of paint was cause for Rollins to reminisce about the house that has been her home for some 52 of her 60 years. She shares it with a daughter and three grandsons, one of whom is away at college.

“My parents brought me into this house as an infant. We’ve had a rich heritage living in this neighborhood, especially when the older people were here,” she said while enjoying pleasant memories of neighborhood softball games and, as a child, “catching crawdads and tadpoles” from the nearby creek.

“I’m part of the old folks now.”
Over all those years, Rollins recalls her house painted in many colors: white, forest green, white again, soft yellow and now “optimistic joy.”

“I’m one big ‘thank you’ today,” she said. “I thank the College, the students, the staff and the Lord.”