I realized just yesterday that I never actually said much about the experience we had working with the Extreme Makeover Home Edition when the show came to town. And then I realized that the reason for that is probably because the show makes all its volunteers sign extensive forms vowing never to talk about the show or its production upon penalty of great bodily pain and lawsuits.
But you know what?
Umm...I'm going to talk about it anyway. I just won't tell you the important details.
That should be ok...right?? I thought so.
So here's how it worked. Weeks ahead of time, our city held a pep rally for potential volunteers. There they gave out all sorts of information including how to sign up to help, what to bring, what not to bring, what to wear, where to show up, where to park, etc. Also, they gave out contact information so that people could go online and register to help.
What we were supposed to do was was email the builder ahead of time and wait on a response telling us what day and shift to show up for. And what we would be allowed to do.
But see, umm...well, we didn't get a response. Probably because we didn't email them until two nights before the demolition. So I called the builder and they said show up anyway, and that's exactly what we did. We showed up anyway. At 7 am. In the freezing cold. With our forms all printed out and signed. We were issued white hard hats and blue t-shirts and loaded onto a bus to head on over to the site. Hurray!!
By the way, hard hats don't look attractive on anyone. Except for maybe the stars of the show. I noticed that Paige Hemmis got to wear a lovely pink hard hat, and it looked quite pretty compared to our sad little white ones. White hard hats are for unskilled workers, you see. Unskilled. That means not electricians, carpenters, gardeners, brick masons, dry wallers, or back hoe drivers. That means...us!
If you ever have the chance to participate in an Extreme home build, please understand something. There is not much point in busting your tail to get out of bed and arrive at the job site bright and early on demolition day. Unless you just want to meet the celebrities and get them to sign your shirt. (Which we did. Want to meet the stars and get them to sign our shirts. And we did. Meet the stars. And they did. Sign our shirts. They were amazingly nice.) But we also wanted to knock stuff down!! That's the fun part, right??!!!
Unfortunately for us, the show is very careful about who they pick to destroy things and how they go about demolishing. I guess that's a good thing.
What happens is this: a whole lot of people in blue t-shirts and white hard hats (the unskilled people, that's us!) stand around on the sidewalk in a huddle and try to keep warm. The cast and crew set up and rehearse lines and walk through the start of the episode. They have many, many locals on hand for the purpose of walking in & out of the house in circles behind Ty, carrying bits and pieces of the family's "stuff" to make it look like they're actually cleaning out the house when in reality the house was already mostly cleared out the night before. They tape a few takes. They tape a few more takes. They tape a few more takes. Then they move on to introducing the scads of local folks they picked to knock down the house. In this instance it was a "girl power" theme and so lots of females were on hand to tear down walls. That's all I'm allowed to say about that. Ty and Paige and Michael and Ed...they got very energetic and spoke their lines and Ty shouted into the "Ty Cam" at the family who was vacationing somewhere and they practiced knocking the house down a few hundred times and they finally got it right.
THEN they brought in the humongous tractor thing and really started crushing the whole structure. It was gone in minutes.
Mr. Pennington wasn't feeling very well, so in between takes he would sit down and rest. Poor Ty. He still looked quite all right, I assure you. He was more than willing to talk to us Blue-Shirt-White-Hats that were able to make our way close enough to him. It was fairly easy to sneak past security. He posed for pictures and signed shirts, and he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. He seemed like a genuinely nice and hyperactive guy with a lot of energy.
Also, Paige, Michael and Ed? Really seemed to enjoy talking with all the volunteers, cutting up and joking around, signing autographs, answering questions. They were all very friendly. I don't know what I was expecting, maybe stuck-up Hollywood people or something? They were very approachable types. Very normal. Well...maybe not normal. I have never seen such gorgeous hair, white teeth and perfect clothes at a construction site before, but then again I haven't been on all that many job sites, so maybe it's average for people to walk around new constructions in Armani Exchange shirts and pink boots?? I dunno.
Over night, the entire piece of property was leveled, and the new house was framed in. It was UNREAL how fast that house was put up!
Four of us went back to help again on the next-to-last day. This time, we got to plant flowers and bushes, mulch flowerbeds and sweep floors inside and out. Others got to bring in furniture and hand wallpaper and unpack kitchen items and things like that. We were able to see some of the almost-completed home, and it was wonderful. We didn't try to make it back for the "big reveal" because for one thing it was entirely too cold out to stand around freezing on the sidewalk waiting on them to move that bus!!
Here's what the house looked like the day before it was revealed to the family:
A few more things about the experience:
The crew and the volunteers (there were about 3,000 total) and the places in town that donated either stuff or workers...they cleaned, swept, raked, spruced, installed, sodded, roofed, blew leaves, bagged garbage, planted things, fenced yards, sided houses and otherwise revitalized many, many homes in the neighborhood. Every single neighbor that lived close enough to be seriously inconvenienced by huge trucks and tractors, throngs of people taking over their yards and blocks, were given something to make up for their trouble. Some were given new appliances, new front doors and windows, new siding and roofs, new heating systems, newly sodded yards...it just depended on what that family needed most. The neighborhood was left in much better shape than it was found.
The makeover house turned out fabulous! Not so overdone that the family shouldn't be able to maintain it, but still just a million times improvement over what they had to start with.
A few people remain with the family after the move-in. They stay around for a couple for days and teach them about their new appliances, their new heating & air system, all the features of their home. They show them where their silverware is located and where to find the coffee, towels, all the little things. Can you imagine moving in and not knowing where the extra toilet paper is?
The family has to sign a contract that they won't allow any people to tour their home until the show airs. Well, other than like their immediate family members and all. I wouldn't have thought that would be necessary, but apparently the lady who moved in to this one had folks knocking on her doors at all hours wanting to see. Like...yeah, come on in and see my new flat screen tvs and computers...let me show you where it's all located so you strangers can make plans to rob me blind!
They also treat their volunteers quite well. Local companies set up free massages and catered meals and brought in treats for us. Everyone was polite and helpful. It was a chance to be a part of something very special.
And to meet ED!! With the British accent! Not sure why he didn't have to wear a hard hat...I would think bricks falling on a bald head would hurt worse??
If you ever hear about the bus coming to your area and you can get away for six hours, I would definitely advise you to go help out! They're doing something good, and it was so much fun. And if you're really sweet to the security guys, they'll let you close to the bus.
Oh! And be sure to watch the episode featuring the Graham Family from Augusta, GA. Because I watched them knock down that house and I helped plant those yellow pansies!!