Ready for the bus to be moved. Image by Kennie Riffey
By Kennie Riffey, Journalist
Knoxville Daily Sun
In an early morning flurry of activity, volunteers swept that floor, spread that mulch, and stocked that shelf. Everyone was working quietly and quickly toward that moment when they could gather outside and shout what they really wanted to say. Move that bus.
The new Restoration House, a product of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Knoxville
Image by Kennie Riffey
For Daniel and Mandy Watson, that moment would be a life-changing event. Because of their efforts to improve the lives of single moms and their children through the non-profit, Restoration House, the couple was selected to receive a new home courtesy of the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition series on ABC. They also received a new Ford Explorer and a solar panel farm.
When the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition television series put out a call for nominations in the Knoxville area, Kim Frazier knew exactly who should get that new home. She had met Mandy through a mother's-day-out program and they became quick friends. "I loved who they were," Kim said. "I saw the sacrifices they made so these women could have a better life." Kim hounded ABC for 18 months and encouraged others to do the same. Her diligence, and theirs, paid off.
On January 10, 2012, the Watsons got the knock on the door and learned that they had been selected to receive the gift of a new home for them and a duplex to house two of the single-mom families. The Watson's job for the next week was to go to Florida and enjoy a vacation. The job for the Makeover crew and hundreds of volunteers was to make this dream come true, and fast.
The build started that same day and, despite unpredictable weather, took just eight days thanks to the determination, persistence and around-the-clock shifts of all of those involved. Whether skilled or unskilled, working the food tent or setting trusses, every person was a critical piece to ensuring the build happened like clockwork.
The moment finally came and everyone knew what to say. Move that bus. Despite more than an hour's delay, spectators, volunteers and crew enthusiastically joined in to welcome Daniel, Mandy and the family with heart-felt cheers and hand-made signs expressing love and support. The couple shared this special event with many of their family, friends and team members from Restoration House.
The design of the new home is about sharing space with family and friends. The entry leads to an open floor plan that includes a great room with stone fireplace, dining room and a kitchen lined with cabinets, more cabinets and a full-length island.
The safari room includes a larger-than-life elephant and has the trimmings of a well-appointed tiki hut. The playroom looks like the FAO Schwarz sets from the movie "Big." Each bedroom has a bath close by. The house is fully furnished, from tables and chairs to blenders and placemats.
Exiting through the dining room or kitchen, the family can move outside to the full-length, deep porch that leads to a courtyard and large picnic table where all of the families can eat together.
Across the courtyard, to the left of the main house, is the duplex. Each side of the duplex has two bedrooms and an open floor plan for the kitchen, living room and dining room. Entry for each unit is through French doors that open onto a shared veranda. One side has been decorated with more modern furnishings, while the other is traditional.
The show is being aired at Thanksgiving this year and is one of the final shows of the series. For the past nine years, this "feel good" show has allowed viewers to be a part of making a dream come true for many deserving families.
The house, the duplex, and the Watson's appearance on the show will be the gift that keeps on giving. Because of the publicity generated, people are learning about the work of Restoration House. Kim Spoon, a social worker for the program, says she has been getting phone calls from women across the country that want to apply. Restoration House currently provides housing for five families, but offers information and support services to countless others.
For information about The Restoration House visit www.therestorationhouse.net.