Reality television programming has so infiltrated American culture that ordinary people are now performing crazy antics for millions of viewers, like swallowing a cockroach or competing to marry a total stranger. But it's not all about shock value today, and some programs of this genre are focusing on making a positive difference in people's lives, such as ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (EMHE), which also is offering lumberyards an opportunity to put their work on display.
Unlike many of today's reality shows, the work on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (EMHE) seems less about the last man standing and more about teamwork. The premise (though not the execution) is fairly simple: A family is sent away on vacation for a week and returns to a home transformed, either through hefty additions and remodeling or through demolition and rebuild. Families typically have undergone emotional and financial hardship, such as losing a loved one, or have a unique need, such as a child with a disability who could benefit from home renovations. Of course there is still some shock value, typically when the homes—often replete with plasma TVs and other high-end surprises—are dramatically revealed.
A number of dealers, including Dixieline, Home Lumber, and Stock Building Supply, have supplied lumber and building materials for episodes of the show. Typically, dealers donate materials, provide both materials and labor, or offer either at cost.
And these are no ordinary jobs. Turning projects around in a mere seven days while simultaneously shooting for prime time TV requires coordination of hundreds of people. Not only must dealers deliver materials precisely on time, but often on short notice. The projects also may require committing employees for extra-long shifts while still maintaining the same level of service for regular customers.
But the rewards of changing a family's life are extraordinary, too, and for an industry that prides itself on giving back, supplying Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is local-level community service in the national spotlight. “We've always liked to do those kind of things,” says David McCafferty of Kent, Ohio–based Carter Lumber, which donated lumber and building materials for an EMHE remodeling project for a family in Oak Park, Mich. “Everybody at the company was supportive and got behind it.” And while Carter Lumber gained the show's contractor as a new customer and created buzz in its community, perhaps the best reward came by mail soon after: a letter and plaque of appreciation from the project's family.
Woodinville Lumber also got more in return than was expected. The Woodinville, Wash.–based dealer donated trusses, wall panels, floor panels, and siding, as well as labor for the framing and siding, for an episode with the Dore Family, a widowed mother and her three daughters in Kingston, Wash., who were forced to live in their tool shed after a fire destroyed their house. To help build the family's new home, the company had to perfectly coordinate employees and installers one after the other, and they got creative to save time, including designing and building walls and trusses overnight, panelizing portions of the roof ahead of time, and pre-painting siding. Woodinville also had to transport supplies by ferry to the site, located on a peninsula across Puget Sound. The initial motivation, says vice president Roy Schiferl, was certainly to help the community. But by doing the type of work Woodinville does every day—and on a much more extreme timeframe—the company and employees also were able to showcase the feats they are capable of. “It was such a sense of teamwork, and our people were so pumped up about doing it,” he says.
Teamwork—within companies and within communities—is indeed a common thread at EMHE. “It's more than about the family, it's about extended family, neighborhood, community,” says Conrad Ricketts, the show's senior producer. “... Entire communities get involved trying to build these houses. There's something so positive when neighbors come together to help someone.”
“This experience brought everyone involved closer together,” said Jeff Griffin, manager of 84 Lumber's Chelsea, Ala., store in a press release announcing the dealer's involvement in a March episode involving an Alabama family with sextuplets. “We all worked together as a team and focused on this family that was counting on us.”
Dealer selection for episodes varies, with some chosen by ABC and others tapped by the builders on the project. Dealers interested in participating can contact Ricketts at 323.785.2258 or [email protected].