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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

Commentary: The community makes the difference

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 has.

"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 everything themselves.

'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 family."

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 auction.

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 free.

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 the sales.

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," he said.

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 lives.

"The Paunis are going to get a wonderful home, but the community gets something so much better," she said.

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 Pauni family.

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 Bradway

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