During the first weekend of August, the Boyertown Inn's highly anticipated makeover began at the hands of Thunder Outreach and an eager group of volunteers."I was driving by here in October of last year," said Mark Malizzi, co-president of Thunder Outreach, a nondenominational faith-based ministry, with his wife, Lisa. "For three days in a row, I stopped at this traffic light, and I kept looking at this building."

"I could just feel it talking to me in my heart," Malizzi said.

Soon after, Malizzi started researching the history and current usage of the inn. "I found out about how it meets the needs of certain people in the community who are pretty much at a rough time in their lives."

"Most of the residents who stay here are having issues," Malizzi said. "Others are mentally challenged. Some are elderly people who are financially challenged."

"If this [place] didn't exist, they'd be living in a cardboard box by the river edge," Malizzi said.

Malizzi initiated conversations with members of the community about the potential of this building and its importance in serving those who are truly in need in the area.

The inn houses anywhere from 20 to 35 people at any given time. Some residents pay weekly and monthly.

With the concept of an exterior restoration project in mind, Malizzi approached Rich Houck Jr., whose family has operated the inn for three generations.

"He just started to cry," Malizzi said about Houck. "He was blown away-because that's really where his heart is."

Unfortunately, raising rent to collect the money needed to restore any part of the building would make living there unaffordable for residents. "So you're kind of in a catch 22," Malizzi said.

Malizzi said he told Houck that by having Thunder Outreach sponsor the restoration, he could bring in volunteer help and community programs.

"Robin Freimann bought books on Victorian houses," Malizzi said. Together, over a period of months, the two discussed the best suited paint color options for the building.

"We had to take a huge building and soften it little a bit," Malizzi said. Planning stages for the project date back to this past January, and by July, everything was nearly set to start the work.

The final decision came to decorating the building with a four color paint scheme using all earthy tones. In fact, Malizzi and Freimann's choices match the Victorian paint scheme already designated by Building a Better Boyertown in its main street improvements.

"By redoing the Victorian paint scheme, we'll give it an ambiance-a real flavor and feel of the historical value of the building," Malizzi said. "Our gear is for this to become a positive influence in people's lives."

"We look for 15-20 volunteers per day, per weekend," Malizzi said.

Volunteers give their time to the project in four-hour shifts. Generally, volunteers work from 8 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 5 pm.

"This is a perfect example of what a community can do when it applies itself toward a positive focus," Malizzi said.

"We're still getting phone calls from people who want to help, like Longacre Electric," Malizzi said. "They're coming down next week to help with their big bucket truck."

"National Penn Bank actually started in this building," Malizzi said. "James Boyer rented one of the rooms and started selling securities out of it as an office."

The first weekend of the project, 15 National Penn Bank employees volunteered. Even Mayor Marianne Deery helped with painting.

Certain local businesses continue to contribute either financially, with equipment, or with service. Hollenbach Home Center, Harleysville National Bank, THP, Grand Rental Station, CIV Enterprises, Martin Stone Quarries, Kulp Car Rentals, and Gehringer Mechanical are some companies sharing their support in the project thus far.

Sherwin Williams of Pottstown is supplying the paint for the restoration. The store had its main branch donate half the amount of paint needed for the entire project, Malizzi said.

With the Houck's large family living in different parts of the country and hearing news of the project, one excited relative traveled all the way from Connecticut to offer her assistance.

Repair for the stonework along the front porch was recently completed thanks to A.D. Masonry of Pennsburg. Before and after photos of this and many other scenes from the project are available on the Web at www.thunderoutreach.com.

Volunteers of any experience level are welcomed to join in on the makeover. Monetary donations are of course being accepted, and if specified for the project, will go directly toward purchasing further supplies needed to complete the restoration, Malizzi said.

Malizzi said that he hopes to have the project finished before winter and that he would like to line up local churches to sponsor rooms for residents in the upcoming year.

"People stop along the road, beeping their horns, giving thumbs up," Malizzi said about the public's reaction. "There's such a buzz going around this whole community."

"It influences so many people's lives," Malizzi said. "They're seeing something happen, and they're excited about it."

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