Ohio widower paints the town to make it a brighter place

(CBS News) GLOUSTER, Ohio - Most of us face a rough patch at one time or another in our lives.

CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman met a man who can teach us all something about how to turn sadness into joy.

After Jim Cotter last his wife last year, he set out to paint the town. But, don't judge him too harshly for that -- not until you hear the rest of the story.

"I miss her," he told CBS News. "And this just gives me something that keeps me from missing her more."

The own Jim set out to paint is Glouster, Ohio, population 2000. Once a thriving coal community, it's been peeling - and therefore somewhat unappealing - for years. Cotter says he's always wished someone would fix it up, and so after his wife died, he decided to be that someone.

"I can do something about the town. We'll paint it," he explained.

"The whole town," he added.

He started with a fire hydrant, moved down the road to the guardrail and then hit a home stretch.

Cotter painted house after house, business after business - all for free.

Bonny Shifflet owns the newly painted Bonnie's Restaurant. She says she cried when she saw her business. "I tell you, it did something to me," she said.

"It's just amazing what a little bit of paint will do," Cotter said. "It changes people's hearts."

It also inspires them to join in. Over the last few months, volunteers have been coming out of the woodwork to paint the woodwork and help Cotter reach his goal. "It's just gone like topsy," Cotter said.

Today, you can't walk more than a couple blocks in Glouster without finding someone painting something. Even the high school kids have been Tom Sawyer-ed into helping.

Not a painter? Not a problem. Jim has found a way for pretty much everyone one to contribute. And again, these are all volunteers donating their own time and often their own materials to work on buildings that aren't even their own. "We're getting something out of it because it makes us feel better about our town," one volunteer said.

"It's just what a community ought to do," Cotter said.

So far Jim and his volunteers have painted or fixed up more than 20 buildings. Although they may never get to all the ones that need it, their effort alone has already made this community a brighter place to live --- and given this widower all he ever needed -- a fresh coat of purpose.

If you'd like to donate to the folks in Glouster, checks can be made out to 'Glouster Volunteers' and sent to this address:

Glouster Volunteers
c/o Jody Moore
134 Allen Road
Glouster, OH 45732

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

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