By Vicky Jenkinson
Savannah will be in the national spotlight once again as Jim and Carmen Simpson with their three children Isaac, Katelyn and Zoe return to their new home on the Jan. 16 episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The show’s producers selected the Savannah family last November after a search through thousands of deserving applications. Local builders J.T. Turner Construction managed the six-day, 106-hour build of the 3,300-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home.
The new house replaced the dilapidated 1940′s-era carriage house in Ardsley Park that the Simpsons were in the midst of renovating to accommodate the physical therapy needs of their youngest son. District photographer Vicky Jenkinson kept a photo diary of her experience among the hundreds of spectators, supporters and volunteers that showed up at the construction site each day to document the construction process from demolition to the moment host Ty Pennington yelled, “Move that bus!”
The Extreme Makeover demolition site was not nearly as busy as I had expected it to be upon arrival. Even so, plenty of volunteers buzzed around, being as productive as possible. Every now and again, someone would speak through a megaphone to call anyone that was wearing a blue shirt to come forward.
With the progress in filming, the spectators assumed that the demolition would start at any moment. The positioning of the equipment, the evacuation of the house, and the hosing down of the original house took much longer, which points to the magic of television—we never see the boring moments. As soon as the bricks started to fall, though, a rush of cheers rose along with the noisy engines from the diggers and the snapping and crashing of the house.
Some volunteers gathered to deep fry parts of the house, such as a toilet seat, roofing shingles and door knobs. After a few takes of people walking in circles, people carrying empty boxes were added to the sequence. When a good flow was found, the director added in Ty Pennington’s entrance and his explanation to the family on his hand held camcorder.
The bus and volunteers in front of the original house that stood on the Simpson's property.
Volunteers had to pretend to work for the third take during demolition day.
Ty Pennington was told to say "Let's carve this up for some deep fried demo!" during several takes while volunteers and men with chainsaws cheered him on.
Once the dust settled and all of the rubble had been cleared it seemed as if the reconstruction of the house was thrown into hyper drive.
The new house started to take shape as the walls of the first floor were in place.
A crowd assembled to view the home building process over six days.
Work didn't stop just because the sun went down. While I made multiple trips during a day when I could, every trip out to the site was a surprise. By night two the walls of the first floor were already in place and covered with sheet rock.
The pool was in place and the main support for columns of a fence went under way.
By Nov. 15, the second story had walls, windows were installed on both floors and a roof had been but in place.
Finishing touches were being done while furniture was moved into the new house.
Gnate "T" Gnat and Art the Bee were extremely excited for the bus to move.
Georgia Southern cheerlearders got the crowd pumped for "MOVE THAT BUS!"
There was a constant humming and beeping from heavy machinery. The work site had a pulse and it quickly became very apparent just how amazing building a house in only five days is. As the reveal rapidly approached, the interest from the locals increased.
Throughout the construction process, Second Harvest Charity collected non-perishable food items. At the press conference on Nov. 19, the amount donated was revealed and Savannah locals came together to donate just over 150 tons of food. At the end of a long week, the Simpson family had a new home and Savannah showed that its people care.
Contact Vicky Jenkinson.
Isaac, 8, stands next to Jim Simpson, holding his two-year-old son, Zoe. Wife Carmen holds four-year-old daughter Katelyn in front of their new home.