When I look over the online biographies of our local political leaders, I don't see anything about what skills they have outside of politics.  The bios do not reveal what hobbies they have or what they like to do in their spare time.

That's pretty important information because Community of Caring is asking some state representatives from Erie to design and paint birdhouses for the agency's upcoming fund raiser...an art auction. Community of Caring does important work in helping the city’s homeless community. Politicians with paint brushes?   I hope the auction organizers know what they're doing by inviting those guys to submit their work.

"They just readily said yes. I think they're actually excited about it,” says Maureen Dunn, the Director of Development at Community of Caring.

Rep. Pat Harkins is proud of the birdhouses he is submitting to the auction. One has a beach theme.  The other has a Snoopy theme. Rep. Harkins admits that he should not receive all the credit for these wonderful birdhouses.

"The artistic work that you see, it was proudly done by my wife Michelle,” he revealed. “She is the painter.  She is the artist in the house, in the family.  My daughter Barbara and her."  

Rep. Harkins did make a contribution to the project.  He used a bandsaw to cut out some pieces for the design...a surfboard and Snoopy.

"Always into woodworking,” he says. “I strip furniture and things like that.  Always had a knack for it.  It's a side hobby when I do have time." 

I dropped into Rep. Ryan Bizzarro's district office in Millcreek to see how he is coming on the three birdhouses he volunteered to design and paint.  The representative was in Harrisburg.  But, his constituent liaison, Susan Prichard, was hard at work with one of the birdhouses.  It's lovingly named "The House of Birdzarro."  It is beautiful.  Maybe Rep. Bizzarro doesn't need to put his personal touch on the project.

"Well, he is a man of many talents,” said Susan with a laugh. “He just was away.  He was more than willing to have us participate."  

Rep. Bob Merski will also donate three birdhouses. He does have a favorite. He helped his children paint it. The others were done by his staff. But it's not like the representative couldn't have done it himself.

"I'm pretty good at art,” says Rep. Merski. “I actually took 15 credits of art in college.  I was going to be an art teacher before I switched to elementary education.  But again, I hadn't done this in 25 years. So it's been a long time."  

The man who was going to be an art teacher gives his donated birdhouses a B+.

The silent auction sponsored by Community of Caring will be held Thursday, May 9, at City Gallery at 1503 State Street.   It runs from 5 to 7 p.m. 

There is a $10 admission.  The public is invited to bid on the art items and enjoy complimentary appetizers and beverages. In addition to the politician’s birdhouses, many works of art from well-known local artists will also be up for auction.