Westmont Magazine Painting with a Purpose
Eric Gemelli ’85 knows what it’s like to be out of a job with five children to support. After a successful career selling financial products, he started his own company, Cornerstone Financial Services, in 1997 and raised venture capital. While the firm flourished at first, it later foundered and Eric ended up losing money and his livelihood.
As he prayed for direction in his life, he got an idea for a company, Painting with a Purpose. The premise of this enterprise is hiring people part-time to paint as sub-contractors while they look for permanent jobs.
“I remember hearing a story about a Christian who painted houses with homeless people to help them financially and minister to them while they worked. I liked that idea and decided to try something similar.
“Some of my helpers have been alcoholics and some have earned master’s degrees,” he says. “God is in charge, so I don’t worry whether the people I hire are economically viable or not.
“The educated ones really elevate the level of conversation when you’re painting,” he adds. “One guy taught me to play chess — he is a rated player. Another lost his job with Promise Keepers through cutbacks. Hiring such people gives me a great sense of rescue.”
The painting business wasn’t new to Eric. As a senior at Wheaton Christian High School, he started his first painting company. “That’s when I learned my estimating skills,” he says. “That’s a critical skill. I’m thankful for that experience.”
Helping people who need jobs appeals strongly to Eric. After his business fell apart, fellow members of Lookout Mountain Community Church in Golden, Colo., reached out to him. “They shared their lives. They sacrificed for me. They invested in my life. They helped me financially, and their kindness has brought me to tears. I’ve been a Christian since I was 6 years old, but they have brought to life the lessons of the faith.”
At the same time he lost his business, Eric went through a difficult divorce, and his five children now live with his ex-wife.
“When things happen outside of God’s ideal, He uses them to teach us something and make us better,” Eric says. “I have had a hideous experience, but I like myself better now. I have developed more character. In the past, I handled some things foolishly. Now if I think God is telling me to do something, I try to obey.”
Eric attended Westmont for a year and graduated from Northern Illinois University, where he majored in journalism. He has written a finance column and a restaurant review column for Colorado papers and done some freelance work for other newspapers.
Eric considers Painting with a Purpose a temporary venture. But the lessons he has learned in the last few years are permanent. “I don’t need money, I need God,” he says. “God is in charge and that is all I care about. Learning to trust him is the most important thing. It is all about trust.”