Where the heart is
Only a one-lane roadway of rippled and cracked asphalt led to an isolated property on Montgomery Avenue in Fairmont, W.Va. The house, occupied by Angie and Richard Turner and their five children, had fallen into disrepair and was almost an unexpected site in the midst of dense vegetation. But, last fall, ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” chose the home as part of its 50-state tour of constructing new homes for deserving families. The project not only involved the usual crews of designers and construction workers, but also city officials and employees. “Now, [the house is] sitting probably with the best view in Fairmont,” says Jay Rogers, the city’s director of planning and development.
When the show first contacted the city in October 2007, ABC officials were unsure if they would have access to the site to accommodate the famous bus from which host Ty Pennington emerges on the show and the equipment needed to demolish and reconstruct the home. But, for a city that prides itself on helping others, assisting the show was only natural. “That kind of can-do attitude is what makes America great — that cities and counties help their neighbors and they make a difference,” says show Senior Producer Diane Korman. “They serve as an example of how good government can be.”
Just days before construction began on Nov. 29, 2007, the city began clearing and paving the road adjacent to the Turner home, using the remaining funds from its paving program and matching funds from the governor’s office. “At the end of the day, because of the work that our city crews did, we were able to get that bus up there,” Rogers says. “I think it was kind of fulfilling for our guys.”
Located just off the newly paved road, the less-than-600-square-foot home was deteriorating. The seven-member Turner family lived with unstable flooring, a single bathroom, and three children sleeping on mattresses laid out on the floor. The confined space even prevented the family from eating together at the dining room table. “Doing what I do…you see a lot of blight,” Rogers says. “As you looked around [the home], you just thought that…they’re never going to be able to do any more with this home if we don’t help them.”
Before the build, the city rushed to issue demolition and building permits, mark utilities and conduct surveys. The city contracted with Bridgeport, W.Va.-based Huffman Corp., which also constructed the city’s police and fire facilities, to build the home. While the city provided public relations services, city employees helped register volunteers, distribute T-shirts and coordinate meals for the workers who were on site 24 hours a day.
Battling wind, rain and even four inches of snow, the crew completed the entire project in 98 hours. The new home is now 2,700 square feet and includes a large kitchen, entertainment room, closet space, bathrooms, spacious living room and a yard.
Fairmont’s involvement with the show, which aired on March 9, affected city officials, employees and workers, and also benefited the city. “What an excellent opportunity to kind of showcase your community,” Rogers says.
The restored road has improved the area near the Turner’s home and the condition of nearby properties. “When you start changing neighborhoods, it really is house by house,” Korman says. “It is this type of pay-it-forward attitude that allows a show like ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ to happen. We’re just cameras and designers…You don’t need us. You don’t need Ty Pennington. You need a city like Fairmont to really step up and support those citizens in order to be a strong community.”
Rogers continues: “It started from day one with that little road.”