Area volunteers excited to work on makeover project

November 11, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

SOUTH MOUNTAIN, Pa. -- Quite comfortable perched on the 6-foot-high pile of stones, I at first didn't notice the backhoe claw swinging toward me.

"You can stay if you want to be part of the backfill!" a foreman jokingly yelled.

My mad scramble down the mound occurred at 3 a.m., my sixth hour on the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" set Sunday night into Monday morning. I volunteered with eight other people on a bitter cold night that before long was replaced by the morning sun, which revealed the beginnings of the frame of what will be the Drumm family's new house.

ABC's Emmy-award winning show's design team arrived Friday morning at Loop Road in Quincy Township, Pa.

They congratulated Matthew and Blasia Drumm and their three sons on being chosen for a new house.

Few tasks awaited volunteers on what surely will prove to be the quietest night of construction this week. Normally bustling activity halted for three hours while a half-dozen workers patiently watched concrete dry to form the basement walls.


The lull meant that volunteers like me were given better access to the site than usual. As tiny snowflakes and occasional sleet fell, overnight project manager Art Miley showed some of us where a deck will be built off the back of the new, 2,500-square-foot house.

Miley, of Dan Ryan Builders, expects that his last shift of the week will be exceptionally long, but, like most people involved, he said he wants to greet the family on its return from Walt Disney World on Friday afternoon.

Fellow volunteer Jessica Lucas hopes to return as a spectator for the reveal ceremony.

"It chokes me up every time I watch the show," she said.

Lucas and us other female volunteers fell victim to the great Ty/Todd scandal of the night. At 11:45 p.m., we thought we heard security guards on the radio say that eight home builders from Connecticut had arrived to meet with "Ty." We rushed to the home to see (rather physically attractive) host Ty Pennington and stood around the limo, only to eventually realize the home builders were meeting with a man named Todd to learn about the process before their own upcoming project.

We visited the heated catering tent several times throughout the night to eat some of the donated food. Businesses have been bringing food constantly to serve hundreds of people on the set at any given time. I tried not to drink too much because the portable toilets were unlighted and intimidating places to be when around mostly male construction workers.

The volunteers' only noteworthy challenge first revealed itself around 2 a.m. We hit a language barrier when checking in about 40 Spanish-speaking workers, but both sides ended up laughing when we'd misspeak.

That jovial sense of camaraderie really defined the volunteer experience for me. At the house itself, tradesmen - often representing companies that typically would be competitors - worked in such close proximity, but without disagreement or disturbance. They masterfully went about their tasks with little direction, as if they just knew what to do and when to do it.

It will be interesting to see whether the mood shifts later this week as deadlines approach and sleep deprivation sets in for the workers.

"We're not running on adrenaline yet, but I know a lot of our contractors and employees are almost working around the clock. Sooner or later, they're going to be exhausted," said Dan Ryan, president and CEO of the homebuilding company.

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