Sen. Hwang Joins Jeanne Harrison, Community Volunteers for Fairfield Fire Hydrant Painting Project

June 5, 2015

Pat McDonald, a retired Fairfield teacher and longtime resident, and state Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) help support Jeanne Harrison’s community service project painting fire hydrants in town.

FAIRFIELD – A small army of volunteers, brandishing paint brushes and armed with an unshakable desire to give back to the community, have converged on streets around town with a single mission: to pay homage to Fairfield’s revolutionary history through a creative and fun project.

The targets are fire hydrants that line Fairfield’s streets and their leader is the indefatigable Jeanne Harrison. On a recent afternoon, Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) joined Harrison and a small group of volunteers to engage in this ongoing effort, transforming the often unsightly and overlooked hydrants into tiny Red Coat soldiers that have excited children and adults alike.

Joining Harrison and Sen. Hwang were Adam Plotnick, of Turney Road, and Pat McDonald, a retired Fairfield teacher and longtime resident. The group chatted and laughed as they painted a hydrant at the I-95 rest stop in Fairfield and later, while doing some touch-ups to one near Jennings Beach, Harrison retraced the origins of her “labor of love.”

As the town prepared to celebrate our country’s bicentennial in 1976, Harrison approached then First Selectman John J. Sullivan with her idea. Approvals were secured and Harrison was told she could start with a test – one hydrant.

Before she even finished that first hydrant, residents were calling the town asking how they could get the hydrant near their home painted, too.

The project quickly took on a life of its own and Harrison realized she was going to need help. She didn’t have to look very far. Over the years, volunteers have come from Boy and Girl Scouts, Wakeman’s Boys and Girls Club, and the Association of Retired Teachers of Fairfield.

Plotnick became involved when he asked Harrison if she would paint a hydrant near his house. “I’ll do it if you help me,” was her answer, Plotnick recalled. “I think they look great and I want to help Jeanne,” he added, explaining his reasons for continuing to volunteer his time for the project.

“The love that people have for these hydrants, I never thought that would happen,” said Harrison, who is now 83.

“This project truly represents all that is good about Fairfield and our residents,” Sen. Hwang said. “It speaks volumes about Jeanne’s character and the love she has for our community, and it also highlights the strong sense of volunteerism that the people of Fairfield have and the incredible appreciation we have for our town’s rich and storied history.”

Harping back to that history, some have asked Harrison why paint Red Coats and not the Patriots, given that the British burned nearly every home in town to the ground on their way to Danbury during the Revolutionary War.

“Now the British put the fires out,” McDonald joked.