This week's episode of
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
is about the gift of giving and how one family inspired a whole community to give big!
Located on the northern Gulf of Mexico is the warm and friendly port town of Mobile, Alabama. It's the type of place where neighbors treat each other like family and barbequing on the weekends is the norm. However, due to its geographical location, Mobile's subtropical climate is prone to major storms and hurricanes. In 2005, the city was struck by Hurricane Katrina, one of the most deadly hurricanes in the history of the Unites States. Hurricane Katrina's 175 mph winds tore apart towns across seven states destroying much in its path. This category five Hurricane left thousands of people homeless, animals displaced, and tragically took 1,836 lives. The town of Mobile was just one of many communities devastated by its deadly blow.
Steve and Lydia Gaudet and their six boys Joseph, Christopher, Thomas, Patrick, Michael, and Peter were just one of thousands of families who were affected by Hurricane Katrina's destruction. All members of the family were blessed to escape untouched. However, their fifty year old home took a major beating by the unleashing of this deadly storm. Nevertheless, the damage did not stop the Gaudet family from lending a helping hand to less fortunate members in their community. Soon after the Hurricane died down, Steve and his family helped with disaster relief. Lydia specifically worked with children who lost everything in the storm and the Gaudet boys went around the community to help clean up front yards as well as do repair work. Steve explains that despite the problems with their own home, reaching out and helping others is something that he and Lydia have instilled in their boys. He said, "Family is not just our immediate group. Family is the community, family is the nation, family is everyone, and you have to give of yourself in order to have family."
Even before Hurricane Katrina swept through Mobile, Steve and Lydia had been in the forefront of community service for years. A big part of their inspiration came when their son Peter, now nine years old, was born with Down Syndrome. Lydia used this unique opportunity to reach out and help other parents with children who have Down Syndrome. She began volunteering for United Cerebral Palsy and at the Down Syndrome Society of Mobile. She is also the volunteer coordinator for Easter Seals, where she teaches free parenting and literacy classes. Steve is an active member for the city of Mobile who frequently helps with various fundraising efforts and is a Camp Counselor for Delta Camp (A Christian camping experience for elementary aged children), as well as a volunteer at Habitat For Humanity.
For the past six years, their son Christopher has volunteered at Camp Smile-A-Mile, an organization dedicated to brightening the lives of children and adults with special needs, much like his brother Peter.
Over the years, Steve and Lydia have focused so much on helping others that their house simply took a back seat, especially after Hurricane Katrina. To make matters worse, the home suffered from a small fire, which only added to the list of repairs the house desperately needed. Severely neglected, their home has started to show signs of stress and structural damage. Everywhere I looked, I noticed problems. From a leaky roof to an insufficient bathroom, collapsing kitchen, unstable flooring, and evidence that load bearing beams were sinking. It was clear to me that this family needed and deserved our help.
Inspired by the gift of giving, this week I join team leader Ty Pennington and design team members Ed Sanders, Johnny Littlefield, and Michael Maloney in a mission to give back to the Gaudet family.
Giving big meant we needed a lot of volunteers and a building firm who could take on the challenge. We had no problem rallying up either! In fact, the community of Mobile and many volunteers from other neighborhoods drove miles to lend a helping hand. For Frank Lott Jr. and Frank Lott III of Heritage Homes, the decision was an easy one to make. The father and son team have built over 2,400 homes and when they got together with their team to discuss the idea of building a house in seven days, they all said, "yes" to the challenge. Frank senior explained it like this. "The Gaudet family is one special and deserving family. It's an honor to follow the Gaudet family's example of giving and service to others."
Working a long side these men and women, I felt such an overwhelming sense of pride. Their commitment throughout the humid days and thunderous nights sent a strong message that when one gives - one is really receiving.
As the week progressed so did the spirit of giving. Frank Lott, III, president of Heritage Homes, decided to repair and make some improvements to an elderly handicapped neighbor down the street from the Gaudet's. When I found out what Frank was doing, I had to go and see what was going on. Frank informed me that the homeowner recently paid a handy man to repair the damage the house took from Hurricane Katrina. Instead of fixing the house, he took the money and left town. Without hesitation, Frank, and his team decided to step in and lend a helping hand. Within a matter of days, we went from one building project to two! It set the bar even higher for all of us that week. Motivated by the power of giving many people joined Frank to repair the handicap ramp in the front yard. As well as sand and restore the siding of the home and add in new landscaping. After pitching in, it was evident to me that the Gaudet's message was known loud and clear.
Where there is need, let us all help and experience the joy of giving.
It was a powerful week. One I will never forget. Hurricane Katrina's force may have been powerful, but I learnt the power of giving and helping others in the end is even stronger.
My hope is that this week's episode will inspire the giver in you and encourage you to reach out and help someone in need.
To learn more about how you can help families like the Gaudets in your community. Go to