On Monday morning, when families walked into Parenthesis, an Oak Park nonprofit that provides parenting education and support programs, eyes bulged. No more drab yellow walls.

A new paint job might not seem that big a deal, but for a small nonprofit, the change this weekend thanks to a local business group was a breath of fresh air.

On Saturday, members of Oak Park Biznet devoted the entire day to sprucing up the second-floor offices at Euclid Avenue Methodist Church, where Parenthesis Parent- Child Center has been for the past 26 years.

The hallway was a drab yellow; it’s now off-white. Biznet donated the supplies and 12 of its members worked from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to paint the long corridor, which stretches about half a block, and alcoves leading from it into classrooms.

The alcoves have become lime green, piñata orange, tangerine and purple.

“Who would think that just a change of color would make such a dramatic difference?” said Kathy Kern, Parenthesis executive director. “But it really has.”

Biznet is a 15-year-old group that was started as a way for local business people to network. Its members include a lawyer, a real estate agent, a banker and a massage therapist. Biznet has helped such local nonprofits as the Oak Park Regional Housing Center. This year, the group adopted Parenthesis.

“The work they do in the community is outstanding,” Joe Langley, Biznet president, said of Parenthesis, a group with a budget of $380,000 that has lost some of its funding. Biznet felt it was important to step up and help them out.

“A lot of people did a lot of work,” Kern said.

“It was an exhausting day,” Langley said. “We would’ve loved to have gotten to the bathrooms, but it was not meant to be that Saturday.”

The Parenthesis space, which totals about 5,000 square feet, includes two offices, four classrooms, a kitchen, and a parent parlor, all of which need new paint jobs. Langley said Biznet would like to help the nonprofit get new furniture in the future.

Biznet has helped Parenthesis in other ways throughout the year, attending fundraisers, donating to silent auctions and lending its members’ professional knowledge to Parenthesis. Biznet is planning to come back, likely in 2009, to do more painting at Parenthesis.

“I had a great time watching families walk in Monday morning and see their eyes bulge … and see everything new,” Kern said.

Jordan Rifis, an Oak Park lawyer and founding member of Biznet, agreed.

“I had my concerns that this was going to be a boring, very institutionalized look but the church picked out some vibrant, beautiful colors,” he said. “I thought those colors were really going to enliven people.”

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

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