One nail, thousands of volunteers at a timeBy MARY VUONG Copyright 2010 Houston ChronicleJan. 14, 2010, 6:31PM (original story link)
Many volunteers who participated in the project were organized through area churches and faith-based organizations.
Many said they were driven by the charitable nature of the popular ABC show, which custom-builds houses for deserving families across the country. The show's cast and crew swept into the Bay Area last week to surprise the Beach family, who were living in a travel trailer parked behind their Hurricane Ike-flooded house. The family was sent to Disney World as thousands of volunteers descended on the site to raze the old house and erect and furnish a new one in just seven days.
"We think this is a really suitable and worthwhile family," said Chris Seay, the Beaches' pastor at Ecclesia Church in the Montrose area of Houston. "Day after day, you're just overwhelmed by the love of this family."
Seay has known Melissa and Larry Beach for about 15 years. Earlier this week he flew to Florida to officiate a "dream wedding" celebration for the couple, who have been married for 23 years. The couple has 13 children, nine of whom are adopted. They range in age from 23 years to 22 months.
The show's episode featuring the Beaches is expected to air sometime in March.
"So many people are thrilled to see this up close," Seay said. "I think there's something very basic in all of us that wants to see what's broken made whole. I think that's what's so appealing about this show."
Jeremy Wells, an elder at Ecclesia, called it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to participate. He and wife Jamie - through their custom mural and faux finishes company, Imago Dei - offered art and donated the time, materials and labor needed to create a peeling plaster finish for one of the bedrooms.
"I just love the show," he said. "I believe in what they do."
That Wells and the lucky family attend the same church is a bonus. "I can't think of a more deserving family for this," he said.
Cary McDonald, a member of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Pearland, doesn't know the Beaches personally, but she was happy to work in the chilly weather last Friday. McDonald helped build a walkway and install temporary fences. She also delivered refreshments to construction workers and collected trash.
"It was a new experience for me," McDonald said. "I watch the show every Sunday, and I've always thought how neat that is for people to come out to support (others)."
Erika Steele, a parishioner at Clear Creek Community Church, described the scene as "organized chaos." She is not a skilled laborer but jumped in to help whenever she could last weekend, such as unloading deliveries.
Hollis Baugh, who attends St. Christopher Episcopal Church in League City, served as the windstorm engineer on the project.
Seay hopes people remain excited to volunteer post-Extreme Makeover. "I hope that it spills onto the island," he said. "There is still so much need on Galveston."
When Chad Clarkson, pastor of church planting and missions at Clear Creek, learned of the project, he knew not to announce it during Sunday service. "I knew they wouldn't be able to manage hundreds of volunteers" at once, said Clarkson, who instead posted the opportunity on the Web and sent out e-mail (which, of course, was forwarded to countless people).
But not everyone interested in volunteering has been able to. Jimmy Hemphill, a member of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Kingwood, and a seasoned volunteer at construction sites, signed up with other folks from Good Shepherd and First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood. But after driving to Kemah at the assigned time, they learned the show had overbooked the number of volunteers needed for that shift.
Still, Hemphill stayed positive last Saturday as he observed the construction site from across the street. As long as it all works out for the family in the end, he reasoned - and besides,isn't it better to have too many volunteers than not enough?
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