Extreme Makeover homes instills hope in citizens

Kaitlyn Marsh

One of the seven extreme makeover homes belongs to the Cogdill family. Single mom Crystal raises only son David after his brother, 9-year-old Zach was crushed by a utility pole during the tornado. Photo by Kaitlyn Marsh

When I heard the Extreme Makeover Home Edition show would be conducting its series finale in Joplin, I could hardly contain my excitement. The home makeover show has been one of my favorites since I could remember, and the fact that it was coming to help those less fortunate after the Joplin tornado was an absolute blessing.
I assumed the team would only be building a home for one lucky family. I was surprised and delighted to hear that seven homes would be built in a week for several deserving people who did remarkable things in their community before and after the tornado struck.
However, the Extreme Makeover team did more for this town and its people than just build houses for a small fraction of the near 8,000  that lost their homes; instead they gave hope to a broken community and strengthened the bonds among wounded families.
With a design team of Ty Pennington, Paul DiMeo, Paige Hemmis, Michael Moloney, Tracy Hutson and a volunteer core of approximately 13,000, they group’s assignment was to build seven houses for seven families in seven days.
Passing by these newly built homes weeks after the show aired was almost humorous in a way, for these seven houses could be seen from a mile away, sticking out like a sore thumb among the flattened foundations surrounding them. Just up the road from the famous Cunningham park, which was also redesigned and restored by the volunteers, the houses ranged from beach themed to modern and angular houses with separate garages facing an alley that runs behind the houses.
On the far left in the line of houses stands the home of the Howard family, a red and stone mix fit for a fireman on duty during the catastrophe. Next the Walters family home showcased a beach-themed abode equipped with a skateboard ramp in the back yard; this house was followed by the Nevins family estate, which resided in a green-themed modern habitat. The two Crystals –  Crystal Cogdill and Crystal Whitely  – both lost children in the disaster and now live side-by-side, just as they did before the tornado, with their yards now connected on the on their left and right for their surviving children to play together. The Nguyen family, Vietnamese immigrants who were saved by eating out the night of the disaster, reside in a humble cottage that has been decorated with peaceful feng sui. Last is the Gonzalez-Ely family, whose occupants include newly-weds Scott and Natalie and Natalie’s son Augie. Augie was wearing a bicycle helmet during the catastrophe, so when a porcelain toilet smashed against his head, the helmet saved his life.
Although this particular miracle was extremely helpful and beneficial to seven families, this feat by the Extreme Makeover crew affected this entire town. If a team of five designers and volunteers can build seven houses for seven families, that’s seven less homeless now.
There is hope instilled in these citizens to create an even better life for themselves, even though some have lost everything. They strive not only to sustain themselves, but to sustain others in their same predicaments. This community has the strength to rebuild, and it might need a push from time to time to help take these baby steps, but these encouraging words and gifts only remind the people of their ambitions to succeed.
By Kaitlyn Marsh