A colorful, painted parking meter in the Vista. (Photos by Lauren Larsen/Carolina News and Reporter)

Painted parking meters are scattered across the Vista, Five Points and the Main Street district to raise money for the American Heart Association.

Businesses and sponsors paid a $500 donation to the Midlands Heart Association and in exchange received a meter head. The sponsors then had the opportunity to paint and decorate the meters any way they liked. All change collected in the meters throughout the month of April will be donated to the Heart Association.

The sponsors increased from nine last year, the program’s first, to 15 this year. There are five parking meters each in the Vista, Five Points and on Main Street.

“It’s been really heartwarming and overwhelming,” said George Floyd, business liaison for the city’s parking services. “The support from these businesses and organizations that not just paid it, but wholeheartedly participated and really had fun doing it.”

Besides being a fun way to raise money, the painted parking meters spread awareness for heart health.

“It sparked so much conversation through the businesses that are doing it – and their employees and their friends and family,” Floyd said.

The city’s director of parking services, Elle Matney, had seen decorated parking meters before but inspired the idea for the campaign. 

“The funds that are raised locally through projects like this, we actually are able to keep that money, like keep those funds to impact our local community as well,” said Lizzie Smith, Midlands American Heart Association, director of development for the popular Heart Walk, another fundraiser for the group.

Floyd said businesses have been excited to participate.

“Some just feel like it’s their obligation to give back to the community,” Floyd said. “Some have very personal stories of how our disease has affected their family, their loved ones.”

Sponsors had the choice to have employees paint the meters or hire artists.

Sarah Aloi, senior biology major at USC, was painting windows at Miss Cocky boutique when Floyd asked her to paint some meters for other sponsors.

“Spending my time and efforts doing something that’s good for the community rather than just randomly making my own artwork was rewarding,” Aloi said.

Floyd said the idea has been shared with national sponsors and other markets and is excited about the future of where the project could go. 

“It would be a great opportunity to share this with our sister cities, and maybe spur some sort of competition with the other cities in the state,” Floyd said. 

The painted meters will come down at the end of the month and be given to the sponsors to keep.

A Masters golf tournament-inspired meter in the Vista, painted by Sarah Aloi.

One parking meter in the Vista says “feed me a lot.”

A parking meter supporting the women’s basketball team on Main Street sponsored by Cool Care Heating, Air, Plumbing & Refrigeration

A painted parking meter outside the Miss Cocky boutique, painted by Sarah Aloi.

The Koger Center’s painted parking meter on Main Street