We can -- and should -- keep
the 'extreme' generosity going
By Marty Archibald
October 23, 2006 | ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home
Edition just rolled through town. They helped build
the deserving Pauni family a new home. But did ABC really
provide much more than a handful of designers and a
few cameras? Couldn't we as a community have built that
house without the help of ABC? Did ABC provide something
According to the show's official Web site, the homes
are built entirely from donations. Money, time, building
materials, furniture, all of it is donated. The whole
house is built without any expense to ABC. Even the
trip they send the family on for the week is donated.
Although some of the money does come from large corporations
such as Sears, most of the donations come from the local
community. That's the concept of the show. Have the
community come together to help build a house for a
deserving family. From the local construction company
that donates their building knowledge and labor, to
local stores that donate furniture and other home accessories,
to local community members that donate their time, money
and labor, a large portion of the house is made possible
just from local support.
There was an abundance of community members who helped
out on the Pauni house. Kartchner Homes provided their
expertise. Ashley Furniture chipped in. Thousands of
local community members gave money and clothes. Some
even volunteered to help on the construction. There
may have been too many volunteers. My roommate was one
of them. He was put on "security duty." He stood there
for four hours, trading stories with the real security
We could have built that house as a community without
ABC. Sure, the house might not be as nice and it might
take longer than a week. We probably couldn't send the
family on a fancy vacation either. But what we could
do is help people in need.
The only tangible things ABC gave to the project were
a few designers and some TV cameras. Someone is designing
all of the houses in Cache Valley. It is my guess that
the majority of them are designed by someone in the
valley. We could probably find designers. As for the
cameras, the last time I checked you don't need a camera
to build a house. And if we get started and find out
we do need cameras, we could probably find our own.
ABC does provide one valuable thing to the project,
the intangible prospect of fame, however improbable
it may be. Sadly, some people today are hesitant to
help those in need unless they see something in it for
themselves. Being on TV or seeing an often shirtless
Ty Pennington was enough for some people.
You probably aren't going to make it on camera. The
show is heavily centered on the family they are helping.
Occasionally the camera will make a quick pan across
a sea of volunteers. For a volunteer, that is your best
chance of being on camera. A three-second crowd shot.
For some just seeing Pennington is enough, shirtless
is even better. But what is so great about seeing him
anyway? Is it because he is on TV or takes his shirt
off for no reason?
Even with these delusions of grandeur, some still
volunteer just for chance to meet fame. I had an encounter
with one such lady.
I work in the card office at Utah State University.
Part of my job entails that I occasionally answer the
phone and answer general questions people may have.
On one particular day a lady called looking for the
Extreme Makeover sign up booth that had been set up
on campus. I explained to her that there was a table
on the first floor off the Tagart Student Center, located
just outside the bookstore. She seemed peeved and hung
up. She called back again and asked for the number so
she could volunteer. I explained to her that they had
no phone and you had to sign up in person. That wasn't
the answer she wanted. She proceeded to call a couple
of other offices located in the TSC hoping to get a
different answer. Each time her call was transferred
back to me in the card office. I gave her the same answer
This went on for about 20 minutes. Eventually I asked
her where she was. Turns out she was in Logan. All that
time spent trying to volunteer over the phone could
have been spent coming up to campus to volunteer. She
didn't want to volunteer that badly, though. A brief
chance at contrived fame was enough for her to want
to volunteer. Having to get in her car or catch the
bus up to campus was too much to ask.
All too often these days we need a reason to be generous.
We need a chance for fame to come from our generosity,
however fleeting it may be. We want to be entertained
at a concert all for the price of a donation. Some donate
just to get their name in the paper or on a building.
Even if nearly every building in the area already has
your name on it and it just confuses people. We tend
to want something from our generosity.
A group of friends and I held a benefit concert for
Operation Smile. Admission to the concert was just a
small fee that would entirely be donated to Operation
Smile. The people came and gave. We even had to turn
some away due to occupancy constraints. We made over
$500, all donated. The jar we set out for people to
donate just a little more had just over $5, all coins.
The people were happy to donate when they saw the fruits
of their generosity, but less inclined to give when
they didn't. I shouldn't talk though. We only organized
the concert to fulfill the needs of a class. We all
gave that night; even if it was to partially fulfill
our own selfish needs.
At least we are giving, though. Whatever the reason
may be, giving is good. So continue to take advantage
of every opportunity you have to give to those less
fortunate. And occasionally give not for what you get
in return, but just because you can.