ELLIS — For the dozen Fort Hays State University students in Ellis on Saturday morning, it was a day of giving to the surrounding community.

For Evelyn Fisher, it was much more.

“In my world, this is a miracle,” she said, as she watched the students painting the exterior of her home on 10th Street.

The students were taking part in a “paint-a-thon” with Tigers in Service, a student program under the university’s Center for Civic Leadership. In Ellis and two locations in Hays, students were helping homeowners with some much-needed house painting.

At one Hays location, the job was as simple as painting the soffet of the garage. The homeowner just needed a little help with a job that needed a ladder.

Fisher has owned her house only since this spring. She had considered applying to purchase a Victoria house rehabilitated by Habitat for Humanity of Ellis County, but her sister in Ellis, Melanie Armbruster, convinced her to wait for a Habitat house in Ellis to be available.

But the small house on 10th Street went on the market, and Fisher and her sister and brother-in-law, Brandon, did a little work on it so Fisher would qualify for a rural development loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Everything came together, and God has truly blessed me with the right people being in the right place and opening all the right doors for me,” she said.

The 800-square-foot house is just right for Fisher and her dog, Hank. There’s a garage by the alley, and she fenced in a small area in the back. She hopes to eventually get new windows and shutters, put up a fence on the east side of the property and do some work on the garage, but she wanted to get the exterior painted first.

A tight budget and an illness kept her from getting much of it done, however. She heard about the paint-a-thon through Leslie Wyatt, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Ellis County.

“Now it’s all going to get done in a day,” she said.

The students helping Fisher had a variety of experience in house painting, but all picked up brushes and set to work early Saturday morning, covering the faded maroon or brown trim in white and painting the siding gray.

“I painted houses this summer,” Kourtney Davidson, a freshman from Quinter, said from on top of the porch, where she was painting the trim near the peak of the roof.

Emma Worthington, Overland Park, and Isable Johnson, Wichita, are both freshmen in the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science, and painted on the west side of the house while Emily Maldonado worked above them on a ladder. Jason Pineda held the ladder for her. Both Maldonado and Pineda are freshmen from Emporia.

Blaine Wertz, a Quinter graduate student, and Mackenzie Kendall, Greensburg junior, members of student group Christian Challenge, painted the porch.

Overland Park sophomore Corie Lynn, a member of student service group Circle K International, worked on the east side of the house with Alexandria Kultgen, Waco, Texas, senior; Lupita Rulas, Rolla sophomore; Jaqueline Rodriguez, Wichita sophomore; and Kayla Baumgartner, Manhattan freshman.

“It’s a great opportunity to help the community, and I like painting,” Baumgartner said. It wasn’t her first effort at community service. She said in high school, she had participated in events assisting the humane society and picking up trash in her community.

Fisher was excited how her house was starting to look, and picked up a brush to help out when she wasn’t handing out water and snacks. Later in the morning, she went inside to fix a lunch of sloppy joes for the students.

And she frequently expressed her gratitude to the workers.

“It’s kind of a little toast to me, because this is my 11th year of being clean and sober. This is my big reward after spending 22 years out in the world drinking and abusing drugs. Here I stand sober,” she said, watching the students at work.

“I’m just really thrilled that everybody could be here to help me today and that it’s a nice day and not raining.”