Extreme Makeover petition in works for Morgan County family

May 11, 2007|by TRISH RUDDER

GREAT CACAPON, W.Va. - GREAT CACAPON, W.Va. An effort to have people fill out an online petition to "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is in progress to help rebuild the Heath and Cindy Jessee family home that was destroyed by fire last December.

Christy Terp, a family friend and the mother of the Jessee's oldest son, started the petition to the television show.

Austin Jessee, 12, was adopted by the Jessees when he was 2.

"Austin came to live with us when he was 13 months old when we recognized he needed a family setting. Christy is very active in Austin's life and is considered part of the family," Cindy Jessee said.

Terp said she is a fan of "Extreme Makeover" and got the idea after learning a Tennessee family was chosen through a petition with thousands of signatures.

She is seeking signatures for the Jessee family. The link for the online petition is makeover.


You enter your name and a valid e-mail address, which is not shown to the public, she said.

Terp said about 370 signatures were on the petition as of Monday.

Pre-Christmas fire

The two-story, five bedroom manufactured home came with all new appliances when it was purchased in 2000, Cindy Jessee said.

The basement was finished and included a "mother-in-law" apartment with its own kitchen, bedrooms and bath.

When she left the house on Dec. 19 to run some errands, the dishwasher was on. The insurance company investigator determined the fire was caused by the faulty dishwasher.

Everything in the house burned, she said.

They paid off the house mortgage with the insurance money and intend to roof over the burned home's basement, Jessee said, to give them more room than the single-wide trailer they have been living in since the fire.

The trailer was donated by a Martinsburg, W.Va., firm, and they added new flooring and carpeting. They needed to make it "home," Jessee said.

New framed family photographs are on the walls. Jessee said the hardest part was losing all the pictures.

The Jessee's other children are 9-year-old twin boys, Jacob and Bobby, and 8-year-old daughter Alexis.

Terp lives in Davenport, Iowa, where Heath Jessee's mother lives. When they go to Davenport, all the kids want to visit Terp, Jessee said.

Many people advised them to cut ties with the birth mother, but the Jessees felt Austin needs to be part of Terp's life and wanted him to know he was not "thrown away," she said. "This adoption was out of love."

Terp said the Jessees are a very giving family and "not only helped me, but many others over the years. They are always thinking of others," Terp said.

The basement apartment was always open for friends who needed a place to stay, Jessee said.

"We knew what it was like to go through hard times. We have two children with special needs," she said.

Heath Jessee's employer, area churches and many individuals and businesses in Morgan County donated Christmas presents, clothing, toys and food.

The community has been very generous, Jessee said.

She believes other families are more deserving, but Terp wanted to do this.

"We never expected it (the petition) would take off," Jessee said.

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