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'Extreme' fallout: A wave of satisfaction

By Mark Washburn

TV/Radio Writer

It's like there's pixie dust fallout on Sudbury Road – a feel-good current of excitement as thousands of strangers pour energy into Charlotte's “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” project.

Waves of volunteers have been working around the clock since Wednesday on a new home for the family of Curtis and Alisha King, home day-care operators selected by the ABC show because of their community service.

“It's nice to feel you're doing something positive for a family that's doing positive things in the community,” said Rebecca Ripple, a pre-school teacher from Concord. “We need more positive people in this world.”

Ripple came Saturday with about 40 volunteers from Ruckus House Learning Center to do sanding, cleanup and a variety of other tasks as the 5,100-square-foot house neared completion.

“You just can't help but get caught up in the positive energy,” said Connie McNeely of Charlotte. Her 13-year-old son Kent has been coming to the site all week, nagging lead builder Rick Merlini to let his dad join the build.

Merlini said he liked Kent's persistence and on Saturday, the dad – Grant McNeely, a Charlotte general contractor – was sweating away on the job with his family and hundreds of other volunteers. “It's like a family atmosphere out here,” McNeely said.

JoAnn Cameron of Charlotte manned a station at nearby Eastland Mall, uniting volunteers with hard hats and blue T-shirts. “You saw these contractors who came in, and it was obvious they'd been working all day. You give them that blue shirt and they'd get that second wind and be fresh again.”

She understands better than many people the miracle of helpful strangers.

Eleven years ago this month, she gave birth to quadruplets. But one son, Mac, died 18 months later from lingering health problems.

Strangers showed up at their house to help in many ways. Church groups brought things they needed and people helped care for their home and family.

“I felt it on one side and the King family is going to feel it, too – how much people care.”

For some volunteers, the shifts went on much longer than planned.

Eddie Stewart with Air Today of Charlotte arrived about midnight Thursday to finish installation of heating and air conditioning, a Honeywell system that uses ultraviolet light and microfilters to combat spores and mold. Laila King, 7, suffers from asthma.

But an overnight rain delayed construction. Stewart and his team napped in trucks until about 7 a.m. Friday when they were able to get into the house to finish the system, worth more than $45,000, which included 14 SEER heat pumps donated by Ferguson Heating & Cooling and Goodman Manufacturing.

Merlini said Saturday the project was running close to schedule. He expected to make his 88-hour deadline and turn the keys for the house over to producers by 8 a.m. today.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007;

How It's Going

Construction of the “Extreme Makeover” house is on schedule, organizers say, and should be finished today.

Saturday: Painting, interior details installed.

Sunday: Deadline for construction, move in furnishings.

Monday: “Move That Bus” reveal, tentatively about 2 p.m.


Want to See It?

There is no parking in the immediate vicinity of the “Extreme Makeover” site in Windsor Park. Spectators should take the CATS bus, Route 232, Grier Heights. It takes about six minutes to get to the set and leaves Eastland Mall Community Transit Center, 5411 Central Ave., every 15 to 30 minutes. It costs 60 cents one way, or $1.20 for a round trip. CATS accepts exact change only. Spectators should bring water bottles and sensible shoes.