Commentary: The community makes
EASY DOES IT: Logan High
School football players carry furniture into the new
Pauni home. / Photo by Rebekah Bradway
By Kathryn Kemp
October 23, 2006 | The events of this past week have
made for a heartwarming story. A struggling family who
has always put others first finally gets its own needs
met with the help of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home
Edition. But behind the TV stars, and even the
Pauni family themselves, is the story of a community
who came together to make it all happen.
"One thing that's great about Utah is its sense of
community," said Preston Sharp, a cast member of the
show, on Tuesday. "Just a stranger will help you out."
In Cache Valley that sense of community has been going
strong. Most people in the valley probably don't know
the Pauni family, but that has not stopped anyone from
giving them their time, their money and their love.
A generous community
Hundreds of people have volunteered their time on
the job site this week. Businesses all over the valley
have donated their time, money and products to support
and help with the project. Builders, landscapers, roofers,
and others have worked around the clock, even in the
rain, all week long to get the home finished on time.
And all of their labor is free.
"It's amazing to see all the workers who want to be
here," said Krismas Adams, the broker and salesperson
for Kartchner Homes. There were hundreds more who wanted
to be there as well, but couldn't volunteer on site
because there wasn't enough space and enough for them
to do. But that didn't stop anyone from doing some of
the many other things needed to help the family.
Besides just providing the Paunis with a new house,
the main goal is to raise enough money to pay off the
existing mortgage of the Paunis' old house.
"We want, when that bus moves, for that house to be
free," said Nate Webb, who has been helping organize
fundraising activities. The only way that can happen
is through donations from members of the community.
And so far they've done quite a bit.
Cameron Cope, a USU public relations student who has
helped organize events this week, said the benefit concert
Wednesday night brought in $14,000.
There is a donation station set up at the building
site and Webb said they have gone from $2,000 the first
day to $5,000 on Friday. "People are really starting
to step up," he said.
"Every little bit counts." One young girl showed up
at the site with an envelope that had $400 dollars in
it. Lindy Phippen, another USU public relations student,
said the girl had sold cookies to people in her neighborhood
for $15 a plate. There are two touching stories here:
one, that a young girl is willing to put the time and
effort into raising the money; and two, that the neighbors
were willing to pay the $15 to help the cause.
On Tuesday Sharp said, "We have a large turnout everywhere.
It is the kind of individual attitude here that's different."
The girl with the cookies and her neighbors are only
a few of the people who have shown that good attitude.
The amount that people all over the community are
giving is compared by some to the Bible story of the
widow's mite, giving everything they can afford to give,
even when it isn't much. One young boy who is friends
with the youngest Pauni son put two dollars in the donation
bucket at the benefit concert, because he just knew
that even that little bit would make a difference. And
like the two or three dollars of so many others, it
"Every little bit counts," said Phippen.
Big groups help out too. The Cache Valley Fun
Park will donate $500 of its profits from Friday
night. Rich Ritchie, the general manager of the
Fun Park said they wanted to help because they
knew that the Extreme Makeover crew couldn't do
'there's no way they can make this happen without
a community," he said. Ritchie spent some time
at the volunteer tent earlier this week, and it
was overflowing with volunteers that they didn't
have room for. Ritchie wanted to give them another
way to be involved, so the Fun Park agreed to
donate everything they made on Friday to the family.
FUN FOR A GOOD CAUSE:
An air hockey player takes a shot Friday night
at the Cache Valley Fun Park, which donated part
of that night's profits to help the Paunis. /
Photo by Rebekah Bradway
He also wanted to help a family that, although he doesn't
know them personally, he knows is loved in the community.
'they're our own," he said. 'they're a Cache Valley
Unfortunately, the Fun Park didn't have as big of
a turnout as they had hoped for on Friday, but they
are still donating as much as they can.
"All I can say is 'shoot!'" said Ritchie, who was
disappointed with the turnout. The story didn't end
quite like he had hoped, but he knows they did everything
they could to give the community a chance to help. And
those who participated admired the Fun Park for their
willingness to give.
"I'm glad my money's going somewhere good," said Jon
Wardle, who was at the Fun Park with his family. "It
makes me think better of their business."
Utah State University has done numerous things to
try and help. Everything from donation boxes on campus,
to a benefit concert, to service projects for people
in Tonga, they have helped a lot, said Adams. Many of
the volunteers on site have been USU students as well.
Adams said Preston High School has also agreed to donate
all of the proceeds of their Halloween dance.
"Everybody wants to be involved," she said.
Businesses donated in other ways too. There were a
lot of businesses in Cache Valley and around Utah that
wanted to donate their products and services to the
family. Not everyone was needed, but they found other
ways to make them a part of the volunteer effort.
Christina Rossi, who works for Kartchner Homes, came
up with the idea of holding an auction using items donated
by businesses. Some local businesses and artists were
contacted about the idea, and most agreed to participate.
It was a little bit of a last minute plan, but on
Saturday afternoon they had about 20 businesses and
individuals who donated items for the silent auction.
There was a $25 entrance fee, and then participants
could place a bid on the items until a specific time,
when the highest bidder would get it.
The items at the auction included a recliner from
U & I Furniture, a $600 ring from S.E. Needham Jewelers,
a $500 gift certificate from Mackley Designer, and artwork
by a local artist, Larry Winborg.
There were also two tetherballs used in the film Napoleon
Dynamite and autographed by writer/director Jared
Hess, and an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition hat and
T-shirt signed by cast members. The starting bid for
most of the items was lower than its actual worth. There
was one painting by Kent Wallis that had a starting
bid of $2,000, and it was worth $8,000.
Rossi said they were hoping to attract a big crowd,
but her only hope is that they get something for the
family. "If we can get anything out of it, it doesn't
matter how much," she said.
Bob Grove, the communications director of the company
'speaking Roses" donated a bouquet of roses for the
family. The Salt Lake based company prints messages
and pictures on roses for its customers. They are well-known
among celebrities and their flowers are used at many
awards shows like the Grammy's and Emmy's.
When he heard Extreme Makeover was in town, he contacted
Kartchner homes about donating the bouquet, and was
invited to do so.
The bouquet of red roses has a family member's name
printed on each rose in silver, with "Welcome home Pauni
family" written on some of them. It will be presented
to them when they return home.
Speaking Roses also donated gift certificates to Saturday's
Pauni family T-shirts received an enormous and welcome
response. One of the biggest, and unexpected, events
that have brought donations is the selling of T-shirts
that feature the Pauni family. They are plain white
shirts that have a black and white picture of the Pauni
family on the front, with the words, "As a community
we made it happen."
The shirts were designed by public relations student
Trish Taggart, and printed by Proforma Image Products.
Taggart said that the shirts were not completely free,
the price was cut and all of the labor was done for
The decision to print the shirts was last minute,
said Cope. They decided Monday night to go ahead and
do it, so all day Tuesday Taggart created the design
for the t-shirt, using a picture of the family taken
by Russ Dixon. On Wednesday, the first 500 shirts were
printed and sold that night at the benefit concert that
featured Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band. On Thursday
another 1000 were printed, and then a few hundred more
the next couple days totaling just over 1800 shirts,
said Taggart and Cope.
"We've printed every medium and small white shirt
in this valley," said Kristy Bloxham, one of the owners
of Proforma Image Products.
"It's a great thing to be able to help," she said.
They enlisted the help of their employees, family members,
and other printers and embroiderers in the valley.
The company spent a lot of last minute hours getting
the shirts ready for sale, and it has paid off. The
shirts are being sold for $10 each and can be bought
on site, at the mall, at Friday's hockey game, and ABC
4 News advertised them as well.
Webb said this was an unexpected fundraiser that has
helped the cause a lot. As of Saturday afternoon they
had sold around $17,000 worth of t-shirts, and when
they are all sold they should have over $20,000 from
Phippen and Webb both said that the focus is all on
the family now, and not that it's a TV show. Phippen
likes the t-shirt for that reason.
'they're a nice t-shirt because they feature the family,"
she said. Webb said that when he sees workers volunteers
who don't drop everything just because a celebrity shows
up, he knows their focus is where it should be.
'this has been a great reflection on our community,"
The donations never stopped
Webb didn't want to say how much had
been collected so far because he doesn't want to reveal
information that is private to the family, but as of
Saturday afternoon they still needed $65,000-$70,000.
They did everything they could to get the donations
they needed to pay off the house. They continued to
sell the t-shirts that feature the Pauni's, they organized
the auction, and they pleaded with the community not
to stop giving yet.
"We're really trying to look for those last donations,"
said Phippen on Friday. Saturday morning, Extreme Makeover:
Home Edition cast member and carpenter, Ed Sanders,
even made an announcement over the radio that was played
on Cache Valley stations, asking the community to stretch
a little further and help give the family just that
little bit more.
"It's up to our community to see that we get the
house paid off," Webb said.
The workers, builders and volunteers have put their
hearts and souls into the project, but what they were
doing wasn't going to be enough.
"We have done everything we can humanly do to get
this done," he said. From there it was up to the
community to do what the builders couldn't.
Webb said there have been forces working against them
all week that have made it hard for them to complete
this job, as well as making it an emotional experience
for many of the people involved.
"We are truly hoping for a miracle," he said
Saturday afternoon. That miracle didn't come quite they
way they had hoped, but the hard work and kindness of
so many people left them nothing to complain about.
For the rest of the weekend they received several more
donations from community members whether it was from
the auction, the sale of t-shirts, or simply cash donations.
Sunday morning they received another $15,000. One
man, who had already donated $10,000 earlier this week,
gave the family another $10,000.
So did they reach their goal?
"It depends on how you look at it," Webb said.
"It depends on the goal." He estimated that
they were about $30,000-$35,000 short of paying off
the Pauni's existing mortgage. In that sense, they fell
a little short. But if the goal was to give the Pauni
family a leg up and give them as much financial help
as they could, then yes, they still reached their goal.
And that is the goal that Webb wants to focus on.
"Yeah, we didn't hit the number goal, but we hit
the real goal," he said. Webb doesn't want the
community to feel, in any way, that they fell short.
He said the community was not short at all, and he has
been impressed over and
over again with their willingness to give.
"The community stepped up and did just a bang up
job," he said. "And we're all better for it.
As a community we made it happen." That is what
the t-shirts say, and that is the reality of this week.
"What we're doing is a wonderful thing for the
Pauni family," Adams said. She can't get over the
spirit of service and love that is in everything around
the project and the difference it has made in individual
"The Paunis are going to get a wonderful home,
but the community gets something so much better,"
When it's all over and the TV crews are gone, the cast
has gone home, and the crowd no longer lines the streets,
the Cache Valley community can look back and be proud
of the difference they have made in the lives of the
Because even though there was a lot of focus on the
television show and its celebrities and the things they
were doing for the family when all is said and done,
it was the community that made the biggest difference.
AUCTIONED OFF: The 'Napoleon
Dynamite" tetherball. Sweet. / Photo by Rebekah