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A mechanical engineer and longtime volunteer has a colorful way of preparing for retirement

After 30 years for Graco, Mike Jens is using the tools he helped create to rehab a Brooklyn Center home with co-workers on "Communities that KARE."

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — They're the tools of his trade. "We've brought out our magnum sprayers. [We] got a handheld we're working on right now." 

As a senior mechanical engineer at Graco, Mike Jens is well-versed in the equipment on the job site in Brooklyn Center. The Roseville native spent decades creating them, saying he started working at Graco in 1991. 

Jens has spent nearly as long (his first Paint-A-Thon memory was helping on a house in 1993), volunteering yearly during the Metro Paint-A-Thon

The event is organized by the nonprofit Hearts and Hammers. "They select a house for us, and we paint it, fix it up, trim the trees, clean up the brush; things the homeowner couldn't do," explained Jens. "A lot of elderly and disabled want to stay in their homes, and they just need some repair," he continued.

In 2011, Jens stepped up to lead the Graco team and ignited their passion for making a difference. "You'd be surprised what four hours of volunteering can do and turn a house around like this. It kind of builds camaraderie. It's something to talk about after work, and there's always some good experiences here, and it's fun to see the homeowner and just how they light up when they see their house transform," said Jens.

Even though he plans to retire from Graco at the end of the year, Jens doesn't plan to hang up his hammer or paint sprayer just yet. "Yeah, I'll have extra time now. I mean, I'm a do-it-yourselfer at home. So, I just like to work on homes. I'll probably let Hearts and Hammers know I'm available, yes," joked Jens.

The Metro Paint-A-Thon started in 1984. Hearts and Hammers is now the parent organization of the program. If you would like to know how to get involved, visit their website.

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