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Boonsboro residents volunteer for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"

July 28, 2008|By JANET HEIM

BOONSBORO -- As Katie Gadway helped lay sod and spread mulch at 2 a.m. outside a house for people she didn't know, she couldn't help but think how different "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is behind the scenes.

A big fan of the ABC-TV show, the Boonsboro resident was galvanized into action when she saw a plea in a local newspaper for volunteers to work on a home in Poolesville, Md. The Montgomery County, Md., makeover is to be featured on the show's two-hour season premiere this fall, she said.

"It was weird after watching the show to see what they do," said Gadway, 19, a student at Frostburg State University.

Gadway was joined by other Boonsboro residents, including her mother, Lisa Gadway, 45; Jamie Bingaman, 18, a student at Hood College; Jordan Bingaman, 12; Gerri Zaccaria, 41; and Sarah Zaccaria, 8.

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The group made the almost hour-long drive early July 12, and volunteered for the 2 a.m. shift Sunday, the only one available. It was the end of the week-long project, which meant putting on the final touches, in preparation for the "reveal" to the family.

"It was an awesome experience. We really enjoyed it," Lisa Gadway said.

"We had to write every minute of it down so we wouldn't forget any of it," Gerri Zaccaria said.

Only those 18 and older were able to work on the project, so the younger siblings got to observe from the spectator area, where a crowd gathered during the day. They did get to be filmed with the show's host, Ty Pennington, for a possible commercial spot.

"We were all sleep-deprived, but didn't realize it because we were so happy," Katie Gadway said.

The local volunteers got to work closely with designers Paul DiMeo, Paige Hemmis, Michael Moloney, Ed Sanders, Tanya McQueen, Didi Snyder and Eduardo Xol, and were photographed and filmed with them for the show.

They helped with landscaping, assembled furniture, hung curtains, accessorized the bedrooms with stuffed animals and pillows, and did some touch-up painting.

Jamie Bingaman said the best part for her was working closely with the designers and when the family came home, getting a glimpse of "the heart of a mother with 14 kids."

Katie Gadway and her group only knew the family as the Jackson family, whom they described as "very deserving." She said the family consisted of a single mother raising 14 children.

The mom, who had been married with four children, was a foster child. In 2004, she was reunited with her birth sister, who had 10 children.

When her sister died, Felicia Jackson kept a promise that she would raise her sister's children and that none of them would go to foster care. Jackson's husband eventually left her, and she had to quit her government job to care for her expanded family, with children ranging in age from 4 to 18.

With the family living in a hotel and Jackson working as a mall security guard, the final blow came when the Department of Social Services informed Jackson she had to find a house or the children would be taken away.

The community came together to buy a house for the family, but the Jacksons faced another hurdle because the house was in such disrepair that it was unsuitable for the family to live in and too expensive to repair. They were one of six families in the running for the home makeover but didn't find out until the last minute that they had been selected.

With the family headed to Disney World for an all-expense-paid trip, demolition began on the house. A new 4,800-square-foot house was constructed and decorated for the family within a weeks' time, with work going on around the clock.

A home construction project like this normally would take about four months, according to the Web site for Classic Homes of Maryland, which helped with the project. The new home has four bedrooms for the children, a master bedroom for their mother and kids' bathrooms with four stalls in each one, Katie Gadway said.

"It gave you goosebumps. It was really thrilling," Lisa Gadway said of the family's reaction to its new home.

"It's just like on TV. You had tears in your eyes watching them. It was really cool," Gerri Zaccaria added.

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