Thursday’s chilly morning found Hamza Ibrahim crouched on the floor, meticulously painting the walls around the wood trim of his daughter’s future bedroom at a renovated Habitat for Humanity house.
In two other bedrooms of the north Minneapolis townhouse, where Ibrahim’s family will move in May, a gaggle of volunteers attacked walls with brushes, rollers, blue tape, dripping paint buckets and a dose of good cheer.
The paint and people were courtesy of Valspar Corp., the Minneapolis-based paint maker that recently pledged to give Habitat $36 million in free paint over five years.
That gift accelerates Valspar’s giving and will bring its total Habitat paint donations to $100 million nationwide. Valspar first partnered with the nonprofit homebuilder in 2002 and has since donated 2.2 million gallons of paint. The company also donated several $10,000 paint mixing machines so Habitat can match house paint colors exactly.
Valspar paint will be used in the 8,500 homes that Habitat volunteers and homeowners will build or renovate in the United States this year. That includes 50 new homes and 120 renovated homes in the Twin Cities.
This paint “is beautiful and helpful and makes a difference in somebody’s life,” said Ibrahim, who can’t wait to move his wife and two toddlers from their cramped one-bedroom apartment in south Minneapolis. The Ethiopian immigrant and hotel worker came to Minnesota 15 years ago.
Valspar is one of several Minnesota manufacturers to donate labor and materials to Habitat. In recent years, Andersen Windows in Bayport and Marvin Windows in Warroad donated thousands of doors and windows. Maplewood-based 3M Co. has given truckloads of safety glasses, sandpaper, painters tape, spackling, sponges and more. From Minneapolis, Thrivent Financial’s donations over the years exceed $120 million.
In terms of products, Valspar is one of Habitat’s larger donors, said Sue Haigh, president of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
“That is awesome,” she said of Valspar’s $100 million upcoming milestone. “It really was an idea [started] 13 years ago by the team at Valspar and some staff here who asked, ‘How can we have more impact?’ … We are really proud of the fact that it began here in the Twin Cities and then grew nationally. Because of them, thousands of homes have been repaired and repainted. It’s a really neat story.”
Employees also appreciate Valspar’s commitment.
“I am a person who never did anything like this until two years ago,” said Valspar lead recruiter Sue Becker while rolling beige paint on Ibrahim’s walls last week. “But now this is my third house. And in June, I will be leading that build. It’s great and a lot of fun.”
Twin Cities Habitat site supervisor Dave Madzo took a quick break after showing Valspar executive assistant Tammy Meyer how to paint with a long extension rod. “I’ve been working with Habitat since 2001 and using Valspar paints that whole time,” he said.
Valspar CEO Gary Hendrickson said Valspar is “proud” of its work with Habitat. “Valspar’s long-standing partnership with Habitat has helped transform and improve communities across this nation,” he said. “Neighborhoods matter, and so we’re on it.”
The company’s increased pledge to Habitat comes after a banner fiscal year, which ended Oct. 31. Valspar annual sales jumped 10 percent to $4.5 billion while profits shot up 19 percent to $345 million.
Valspar’s renewed pledge to the community-focused Habitat for Humanity will make a big difference to struggling families across the nation, said Habitat spokesman Riley Moynihan.
Many low-income families spend more than 60 percent of their paychecks on basic shelter, leaving little afterward for utilities, food, transportation, clothing and toiletries. Volunteers, donations and sweat equity from prospective homeowners make Habitat’s houses affordable.
In place of a standard down payment, homeowner families such as Ibrahim’s spend 300 to 500 hours building or renovating their home under the supervision of construction pros such as Madzo.
Valspar’s heightened partnership with Habitat is the latest effort in expanding Valspar’s global presence. It’s launched several acquisitions, partnered with Ace Hardware and Lowe’s and spruced up some serious property of its own.
In 2009, Valspar moved its headquarters from an old building in Downtown East to rental space in Minneapolis. But in January, Valspar finished the $40 million renovation of that old headquarters building — now on the National Register of Historic Places — and moved back in. The five-story building now houses 400 employees and once again serves as the corporate headquarters.
The construction project reclaimed and enhanced Valspar’s Minneapolis campus, which consists of four adjacent buildings.
To celebrate, Valspar will sponsor Habitat’s first, weeklong “Brush With Kindness” campaign in September — which will spruce up the dingy exteriors of houses owned by the poor, elderly and disabled. Valspar plans to sponsor the event nationally for the next five years, Welch said. “We hope to get 100 Habitat [chapters] involved at the same time. ... This is a really big deal for us.”