Charlotte welcomes Extreme Makeover
By Susan Shinn
CHARLOTTE ó The frenetic energy of the ABC show “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” has finally died down, a fabulous new home left in its wake.
Come Monday morning, things will be business as usual for Curtis and Alisha King, who own a home-based daycare in this quiet neighborhood.
By Tuesday, the crowds had gone, although lots of equipment and RVs still lined the street.
The security crew was still in place up and down the block, although there was time for two guys to toss a ball back and forth. Another security officer chatted on a cellphone while a small media contingent awaited a press conference in the stifling heat.
The large boom that held the camera used to capture the crowds on Monday at the “reveal” portion of the show sat in front of the house, although it was moved in time for the press conference.
Spectator area signs lay on the ground, waiting to be taken to the next location.
Monday was an extremely busy day for everybody ó the family, the crew and the medics who’ve been onsite the entire build.
There were about 20 heat-related injuries on Monday, according to Eric Morrison of Mecklenburg EMS Agency.
“The crew did a great job in trying to take care of people,” Morrison said. But when you have 1,000 people standing outside in 90-plus degree heat for four to six hours instead of just a couple of hours as was originally expected, the risk of heat-related injuries increases.
On Tuesday, crews were working to return the neighborhood back to normal.
But “normal” is going to be a little bit different now with a 5,100-square-foot house barely contained on the Kings’ lot.
This was builder Rick Merlini’s second house with “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”
Chatting with the press on Monday, it was clear it would take Merlini a long time to consider whether he’d do a third.
The first home he built in 2006 in Michigan, in record time.
The Charlotte build also set a record. It was the largest home ever built by the show.
That was to accommodate the couple’s business, Step by Step Home Daycare. The show’s theme for the upcoming season is community heroes. Alisha King was a single mom at 15, and she and her husband now reach out to others through their business.”I didn’t build this home,” Merlini told the family on Tuesday. “This was built by the community in Charlotte. Your house was built with a lot of love.”
The love continued to flow on Tuesday, as many groups stepped forward with more gifts and assistance for the Kings and their three children.
The most emotional moment of the day came when Chuck Ambrose, president of Pfeiffer University, stepped forward to offer the entire family full scholarships.
“We thought that tuition would make a difference,” he said, as Alisha King bowed her head and broke into tears. “There’s a place for you at Pfeiffer if you’d like to come.”
Later, Ambrose added, “When I said ‘Pfeiffer University,’ I could see Alisha’s eyes light up. When I said ‘scholarships’ that emotion was equal to what she experienced Monday at the reveal. I almost started to cry, too.
“It was great! It was one of the moments I’ll remember as a college president.”
Rowan County was represented.
Jilda Ramsay, a Creative Memories consultant from Mount Ulla, presented the family with a scrapbook. She and Alicia shed happy tears as they hugged.
“This drive every day has been crazy,” Ramsay said afterward. “But it has been so worth it. I love scrapbooking and I love the show. I just volunteered to come do this.”
Didiayer Snyder spoke on behalf of the design team.
“It was an honor to be here this week,” she told the family. “This house was built on a solid foundation. This is an extra step to build a stronger foundation for your family and community.”
Snyder noted that Curtis King is a wonderful artist, both with a paintbrush and with haircutting scissors.
“Together, they have formed something great,” she said of the couple.
For her part, Alisha said she had butterflies on Monday, not knowing what to expect when she saw the house.
It was more than she could have ever expected, she said.
“It brings a new hope to our community and the kids we serve,” Curtis King said.
“Parts of it are surreal,” his wife added, “but you know it’s real.”
As for their favorite parts of the house, Alisha King could only say, “Wait and see.”
The Kings can’t reveal anything about the inside of the house until the show airs, probably sometime in October.
But Alisha King did say this: “The home itself is just so open and warm. It’s designed very well. It just makes you wanna be home.”
She said that while the design team asked a few questions about favorite colors and other preferences, “I really trusted the builder and the designers would do a great job. I like it all.”
She said she would probably make very few changes as far as the functionality of the house.
“The home is very functional,” she said. “There’s no space wasted.”
The family will have to get used to being in a larger home. Their original home had three bedrooms and two baths. It did not have central air conditioning. A persistent mold problem caused the couple’s daughter to be hospitalized with frequent asthma attacks.
The original dwelling’s tax value was set at $112,100. The show did not place a value on the new house, although its furnishings have been listed at $75,000.
Mecklenburg County spokesperson Roger Kortekaas estimated the value of the house at between $800,000 and $1.2 million. He said that a countywide revaluation would be done in January, and that other houses in the neighborhood would not be affected.
Curtis King said the family is now in wait-and-see mode as far as the monthly expenses of the new house are concerned.
The family has received financial donations to help with increased utilities and other expenses.
DukeEnergy, a major sponsor, worked closely with the builder and project team to make the house as energy-efficient as possible, according to spokesperson Elizabeth Bennett. Some 200 employees participated in the project.
Curtis King said that working with the design team was a pleasure.
“They are so personable and easy to talk to,” he said.
He ended up working with designer Ed Sanders quite a bit.
“After we were finished, it felt like me and him knew each other for a long time,” Curtis King said. “I believe they really have it in their heart to help people.”
He and his family are proof that the show provides deserving families with a life-changing experience.
The show runs two crews at the time, the Alpha Team and the Bravo Team. Host Ty Pennington shuttles back and forth between the two.
The show builds one house a week.
It’s a high-energy, high-stress environment.
“The payoff is seeing the reveal,” said one of the show’s production representatives. “Everything else doesn’t matter.
“Sometimes I don’t cry at the reveal but yesterday the tears just flowed.”
Alisha King planned to take the rest of the week off from her daycare, but said she’d be back to work Monday morning. “I don’t take a lot of time off work,” she said. “A couple days at Thanksgiving and a couple days at Christmas.”
Many friends stepped up to keep the children this week.
Alisha King said she’d worked hard all her life, and would continue to do so.
Even though one of the Extreme Makeover homes built in 2005 is in foreclosure, it’s doubtful anything like this will happen to the King family.
“I don’t believe in second mortgages,” Alisha said, “and I don’t believe in debt. We will continue to live modestly. It’s better for us to have some savings so we can help others.
“This doesn’t change who we are. We just have a bigger house!”
Then she gave out a few more heartfelt hugs, and headed home.