I found out they were coming to Pensacola about a month ago, so I did some digging and found out how to volunteer (which, in all honesty, should just be "walk up" but I did actually get to sign up for some shifts through the builder). I would call Heritage Homes the real champion behind the family. They really did provide everything from skilled laborers to volunteer coordinators to donating materials and getting the community involved.
Since Heritage Homes had done an Extreme Makeover home in Mobile a few years ago, I was expecting a really well-oiled machine. But while they had worked out some kinks I'm sure, there was still a lot of rumors flying, miscommunication among various volunteer coordinators, and volunteers standing around waiting for something to do (namely, ME).
They really do keep the build a secret until the last possible moment. From what I could tell, the family knows they're "in the running" but they don't know they're the chosen ones until Ty comes a-knockin'. Which is kind of hard when you're a volunteer because you don't know where you've signed up to go until the day before (or the day of, for some folks). The builder's Facebook wall was seriously exploding with speculations and rumors of the locale on the day of the announcement. I was slightly paranoid it would be over an hour's drive for three days of volunteering. But it turned out closer than I expected, so that was nice.
Here's just a blow-by-blow account of Day 1:
AmeriCorps working with Habitat for Humanity on a site every day.
It was technically still Day 1 of the build, and the foundation had been laid at 4am that day (with apparently a special quick-drying kind of concrete). When I saw it at noon the whole house was already framed with treated OSB on the exterior walls and trusses being taken up to the roof. [There was no demolition for this episode.] Even though during my AmeriCorps stint I had actually built a house in a week at a build-a-thon in Gulfport to help after Katrina/Rita leveled the place, this kind of pace blew my mind. In the 5 days I spent in Gulfport, we only finished the exterior, siding roof, nothing on the inside but the studs for the walls. So I have to hand it to the pros here--this is amazingly quick!
|This was actually taken the next day, but you get the point|
|Not the hardest thing I've ever put together|
We got to eat some lunch there (thank God, because I had forgotten and was starting to get hungry) and grab some ice cream. All the food was donated, so thank you to the local businesses! We left the cafeteria, and saw some volunteers we recognized from earlier. They were standing on the other side of the warehouse in front of the other entrance. The big Extreme Makeover bus was pulling around the site into the area. It was a pretty cool sight. People were starting to come off of it, and of course we just stood there looking for the TV stars. We saw Michael and Tracy walk by, and Michael smiling the whole time (yes he smiled at ME!). By standing there, we eventually all got to help set up their green room in the warehouse. It was all junk food, I kid you not.
|the infamous BUS!|
We did a lot of odd jobs for the rest of the time - including decorating the design tent for Christmas! Yes, it was October but you gotta film this stuff early! I somehow ended up in the house very briefly while Michael was doing a spiel. They told me to pretend like I was measuring, but the measuring tape in the room didn't even have TAPE in it. So I held up a board and pretended to be busy. And then a bunch of us carried wood from one side of the house to the other and then BACK a few times as filming continued. When this episode airs in December, I'll make sure to let you know if I see myself!
|Also taken the following day - it's Michael's profile and the back of Tracy|