45 Gallons of Paint, 28 Volunteers, 10 Hours, 1 Worthy Cause

For the Forste Family, it’s almost ‘move-in’ day!

Bernie Hohner can’t wait to hand the keys of this beautiful six-bedroom house over to its new owners, Kathie and Jacob Forste. Hohner, Construction Manager and Volunteer Coordinator at Habitat for Humanity of Porter County, paced the basement and first floor of the 2,688 square foot home for the two days the team from The Levy Company spent painting. He wanted to ensure each nook and cranny was painted to perfection, not being afraid to pick up a paint roller and offer his own expertise to volunteers who had never painted before.

“We want to be the best house built in the neighborhood,” he said. Working with Habitat for Humanity has given Hohner the opportunity to combine his passions for building homes and helping those in need. 

Day One of the painting project included many buckets of primer, bright yellow vests of the Levy Company workers and the faint, delicious small of breakfast donuts provided by Habitat for Humanity.

Some of the Volunteers were strangers on day one, priming the interior side-by-side with the goal to complete it by 2 p.m. The group of 28 had lunch midday and engaged in some small talk, discussing what department, or location of Levy they were from and what paint colors they think the family picked. Despite working in the same organization together, they had not developed a comfortable affability amongst one another. 

The following week, Day Two, however, the strangers turned into friends as they exhibited a strong camaraderie. Music now blared from on volunteer’s speaker as the others danced and sang along, commending his taste in music. The team took videos while they painted each room an eccentric color ranging from wine red to sea-foam green to muted purple. One volunteer assured the others that she had not marked the ceiling with paint. Unfortunately, “She did it!” was drawn by her new friends on a bare wall in bright green paint. All in good fun. A Levy Company employee and two-day volunteer Jason Millard even bought lunch for the crew to show his appreciation for his fellow employees and volunteers. 

It seems that all it takes to bring a crew together is the heart of a volunteer and a bucket of green paint.

Celebrating their 100th anniversary, The Levy Company joined forces with Habitat for Humanity across the world to build homes for families in need, including countries like France, Taiwan, and Australia. Jeff Zulich, coordinator fo the Levy Company, was inspired to throw on a yellow vest and grab a paint brush on behalf of The Levy Company owner. 

“Everything he does is family oriented. Levy is a family-run company,” he said. “It’s a great organization to work for.” 

His volunteer heart did not start with Habitat, but it continued. Zulich spent time as a Boy Scouts Leader and president of the Lions Club. “Watching the family come in with be most rewarding,” said Zulich. “Their kids are going to turn around and volunteer for someone else.” 

On the receiving end of the hard work and extraordinary paint job is the Forste family. Jacob and Kathie Forste are a colorful, blended family of 12 that rivals the Brady Bunch. With eight children, ranging from ages two to 19, a spacious home is exactly what they need. Jacob and Kathie met when they were 14 years old. After pursuing different paths for nearly two decades, the couple reunited with the same love they had when they were young, but this time they bring their wonderful kids to share their happy ending. 

-Story by Sara Komendat, photography by Rick Bella for Bella Photography


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