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ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Project Featuring Mount Union Student Volunteers to Air on December 4

November 28, 2005

The episode of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, featuring Mount Union College student volunteers assisting in the construction of a home for a Boardman area family, will be aired on ABC on Sunday, December 4 at 8 p.m.

 

All of the volunteers wore their blueberry-blue Extreme Makeover: Home Edition shirts to class on Wednesday

More than 130 Mount Union students essentially gave up their Fall Break during the weekend of October 14-17 to volunteer for the project, working the late-night shifts during the weekend in hopes of brightening the lives of the Novak family of Boardman.

The Novak family learned a few days prior to the beginning of construction that they would be the beneficiaries of the award-winning reality show's generosity, in the form of a new house. According to a press release from Prodigal Media, the family had been living in a three-bedroom, 76-year old Dutch colonial home where the basement annually filled with raw sewage and the shower leaked into the rooms below.

But the family's unsuitable residence was the least of its worries. On Mother's Day of this year, oddly enough after watching an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Jeff Novak's world was turned upside down when his wife of six years, 28-year-old Jackie, died of a pulmonary embolism, the blockage of an artery in the lungs. Not only did she leave behind her husband, but three little girls - Zoey, 6, Harley, 2 and Presley, 5 months - were now without a mother.

Jeff, 29, is in his second year of teaching special needs students at South Range Middle School. Students at the middle school joined Jeff's daughter, Zoey, in nominating the family for the show.

Dr. Linda Burkey Sweeping

In a letter to Ty Pennington, the show's team leader, Zoey said "My daddy doesn't have a wife, I don't have a mommy anymore. Me and my sisters could use a new house."

The demolition of the Novak's current residence took place on the morning of Friday, October 14 and TC Quality Homes began the process of building with the assistance of hundreds of volunteers - including more than 130 from Mount Union.

Volunteers from Mount Union were organized by senior information systems major John Burkey of Salem and his mother, Dr. Linda Burkey, associate professor of education and chair of the Department of Education. The two became involved in the project through Linda's mother and John's grandmother, Marilyn Schmidt.

"My mother works with the Lions Club in Canfield," said Linda. "Part of the Lions Club's responsibility is to complete eye screenings in the local schools. Dr. Carmela Abraham, an optometrist in Salem, volunteers her time to assist in the eye screenings, and her husband is the contractor that is building the new house."

Abraham told Schmidt of the need for volunteers for the project, and Schmidt mentioned that she had a grandson attending Mount Union. From that point on, the Burkeys were on the project.

A Mount Union student attempts to clean her hands

"My mom contacted John to see if he could get volunteers," said Linda. "I joined him in the search for and organization of volunteers, but he has been the backbone of the organization and information sharing process."

"We started gathering volunteers through word of mouth," said John. "My mom helped me promote it to students in the Department of Education and I attended group meetings on campus to ask for volunteers. In a matter of four days, we were able to get more than 130 volunteers."

According to Linda, the Mount Union volunteers included students, members of the faculty and staff, and alumni of the college. The Mount Union volunteers covered the late-night shifts: Friday from 7 p.m.-1 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-7 a.m. and 7 p.m.-1 a.m.

"Our responsibilities mainly entailed cleaning up, light duty around the yards and streets and construction clean up within the job site itself," said Linda.

In addition to the Mount Union community members that volunteered through the organization of the Burkey's, another student was able to participate through his participation in Kent State University's Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) program. Jason Brown, a senior computer science major at Mount Union and a wing commander in the AFROTC's Detachment 630 assisted in the final unveiling of the Novak's new home, providing crowd control and general security.

The producers of the show contacted Lt. Col. Maria Schreffler, commander of the AFROTC Detachment 630 at Kent State, after foreseeing a massive turnout for the unveiling. More than 30 cadets showed up to assist in the endeavor. They spent approximately seven hours assisting the local security detail, greeting spectators and enjoying the festivities of the day.

"I am very proud of the work the cadets of the Detachment 630 put forth on such short notice," said Brown. "This is an experience many of them will remember for the rest of their lives."

Mount Union offers the AFROTC program in cooperation with Kent State.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, currently in its third season, is an Emmy-nominated reality-television program where a team of designers, contractors and volunteers completely rebuild a home, including all rooms and the exterior landscaping, in only seven days.

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