FLINT, Mich. – Winnie the Pooh characters are helping to brighten one of the many vacant homes on the south side of this struggling industrial city.
Kristina Pringle, 20, has a sketch pad full of cartoon characters, and since August, she's been applying her hobby to beautifying an unoccupied house a few doors from her own home.
She has been sketching Winnie's friends on the boarded-up windows.
So far, she's finished painting Eeyore, the sad donkey with a ribbon in his tail, and is working on Tigger the tiger — both companions of Winnie the Pooh in A.A. Milne's classic children's book series.
"I'd like to make my street better for sure," Pringle told The Flint Journal for a recent story. "And drawing is something I like to do."
Neighbors say their first choice would be to see the vacant house torn down. But they say Pringle's cartoons are an improvement over bare plywood.
"If I have to look at something, her pictures are better than a boarded-up home," said Kathy Kirby, who lives across the street.
"It brightens them up a bit, and [the neighborhood] doesn't look as bad," said Jason Headrick. "It just goes to show we have nice people around here."
For several years, the community relations director at the International Academy of Flint charter school has been working to beautify the neighborhood.
Art Wenzlaff has been promoting community cleanups and murals, and he sought Pringle's help. He has supplied her and other volunteers with paint and other materials.
Two other murals are going up on nearby buildings at the hands of other neighborhood volunteers.
It's unclear who owns the home Pringle is painting, and city officials endorse her initiative.
"We don't mind. We'd like it to look nicer," said John Carpenter, the city's deputy director of transportation.