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Generosity key to home makeover

Wed., Nov. 16, 2005

SANDPOINT – Just a few days before “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” came to town to build a home for a local family down on its luck, Tiffany Kurwicki had ordered a poster of Ty Pennington off the internet for her apartment.

“The next thing I know, he’s here,” said the 18-year-old fan of the popular ABC reality TV show. Although Kurwicki was disappointed to hear that Pennington, the host of the show, wasn’t at the job site Tuesday, she was still excited to be headed to the scene on a free shuttle bus.

“I used to watch it every day,” she said. “Reruns and all. I love it. Even the Sears commercials.”

That kind of adoration is drawing hundreds of people to not only observe a new home rise in five days, but also to donate generous amounts of time, materials, food and other goods and services to make the show happen.

“Everywhere we go, we seem to be a magnet for humanity,” said Milan Vasic, location manager for Lock and Key Productions, which produces the show.

Todd Sullivan said he had never even watched the show. But when he was called by the producers more than a month ago asking Sullivan Homes to be the lead contractor on an “Extreme Makeover” for a local family, he agreed to do it – for no compensation.

“And I went to my people, all my employees, and gosh we’ve got a lot of them now and said, ‘Folks, you’ll have to work evenings and weekends, and whoever wants to do it, step forward.’ And they all stepped forward,” he recalled.

Eric Hebert, 37, is currently in the Bahamas with his niece and nephew, Keeley and Kyler. The twins are third-graders in Sandpoint, and they came to live with their uncle in 2004 after their mother died of a heart attack.

They were living in a daylight basement with a roof until Saturday when Pennington and his design team arrived in a motorhome to deliver good news.

When they return Saturday, they’ll be ushered to their new 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot home, custom designed for their tastes and needs.

The demolition began Monday, when the crew felled a tree on the roof of the old house. Framers with Mandere Construction built the roof for the garage Monday evening, while forms were readied for the house foundation.

The framed walls were built over the last couple of weeks in Mandere’s Rathdrum plant, said Pat Mandere, mother of the construction company’s owner. All the labor and materials were donated, she said.

The foundation was poured under a full moon in below-freezing temperatures, and the walls started going up about 4 a.m. Tuesday.

“We wanted to beat the record and we lost,” Mandere said. “We had a few setbacks. We only expected this to last six hours” about half the actual time required.

As she spoke, construction workers with blue “Extreme Makeover” T-shirts pulled over their winter work jackets crawled all over the construction site, while clouds started spitting tiny snowflakes. About noon Tuesday, the roof and upper garage were hoisted by a 65-ton crane onto the walls of the garage.

“Extreme Makeover” design team members Ed Sanders and Paige Hemmis – who stood out without the uniform white hardhats or blue T-shirts – gestured animatedly with television cameras trained alternately on them and the upper story of the garage dangling overhead.

Sullivan, tired and hoarse after sleeping just one hour the previous night, said everything was proceeding according to schedule and exceeding his own expectations.

“Everything is incredible, because they’re all coming together for the family,” he said. Businesses that are used to competing more than cooperating are working almost on top of each other at the site, all for free, he said.

“That’s the only way this will work,” he said. “You cannot pay people well enough to perform like that. It’s got to be from the heart.”

So far, 127 companies have donated to the project, either through materials and labor, or though food and other services to keep construction on schedule, said Stan Hatch of Seasons at Sandpoint development company, who is coordinating efforts in Sandpoint.

The tiny Pie Hut in Sandpoint, for instance, cooked up enough chicken pot pies to feed 250 construction workers for dinner Monday. Owner Heather Gross said she wanted to be involved.

“I love that show,” she said. “It makes me feel good.”


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