When she worked as a Lincolnton police officer, Devonda Friday saw firsthand the devastating effects of child abuse. The experience made her determined to help as many kids as she could. Her husband, James, was equally passionate about helping needy kids. “We felt a calling to become foster parents,” says Devonda, 37. “We wanted to give children a fighting chance with a stable and loving environment.”While a 2005 injury forced her to end her nine-year career with the Lincolnton Police Department, the calling she felt to help kids only became stronger. She and James, former high school sweethearts, became active foster parents, and over the years fostered nearly 30 kids. Then in May 2010, the Fridays were asked to provide temporary care for a teenage boy named Chris, who was being transferred to a group home. When they met Chris he showed them a video of his four siblings who were also in the foster care system. The brothers and sisters would be split up unless adopted into one family. “It was never a question of whether or not we would take all of them,” says James, 39. “We promised Chris that he would be with his brothers and sisters.” The couple went to work making the siblings, nicknamed “the Fab 5,” permanent Friday family members. Their initial request to adopt was turned down because their modest ranch home lacked enough space. Undaunted, the Fridays sold their van to cover expenses and converted their carport into two bedrooms. “We knew we’d be cramped, but that didn’t matter,” says Devonda. “We prayed about it. We needed to keep the kids together.” Their perseverance paid off, and they were approved to adopt in April 2011. The Fridays currently have two other fosters kids in addition to Chris and his siblings.A Christmas Surprise Someone who knew the Fridays, who remains anonymous, nominated the family as candidates for the ABC reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The program gathers together a home builder company, volunteers and cast members to build a home, in one week, for a deserving family. The Fridays were told they were one of five Charlotte families nominated. Producers interviewed them and scouts visited the property.Last December, as the Fridays were shopping for a Christmas tree, they were shocked when Ty Pennington, “Extreme Makeover’s” hyper host, popped up and delivered the news they were going to be on the show. “We knew it was a possibility, but didn’t know until we saw Ty,” says James. “And yes, he’s that excited in person.” That very night the Friday family was whisked away to a weeklong vacation in Jamaica. Demolition and construction of their old home began the next day. “We’re not just building a house” Bellamy Homes in Cornelius was the home builder in charge of the project. Owners Frank Hereda and Wade Miller were actually in contact with the show for months, trying to convince producers to come to Charlotte. “We met representatives at a trade show in Las Vegas and started the recruiting process then,” says Miller. “Before the show selects a family they want to see that the right parts are in place. We had to demonstrate we had families in mind and could get resources and volunteers to complete the project. We sent (show representatives) plans for several families in the area.” Ironically, Bellamy Homes didn’t submit the Friday family for consideration. But Hereda and Miller were thrilled they were selected. When construction began, the first item erected was a large photo of the Friday family, which stood on posts beside the construction site. “During construction, we had to walk past the Friday family all the time,” says Hereda. “Their picture reminded us why we were doing this. They’ve changed so many lives; they are truly special people.” It takes a village of volunteersOver 2,000 people volunteered their time to build the new home. Many local businesses donated items, from flooring companies who donated materials to stores that donated new clothing and toys for the children. “It took a strong team of dedicated people to bring this project together,” Miller says.But in some cases getting donations was tricky because Bellamy Homes couldn’t tell business representatives what the project was. The “Extreme Makeover” crew emphatically states that plans remain secret until the selected family knows. “It was tough getting businesses to donate items because we couldn’t tell them what everything was for,” says Tiffany Davis, sales manager for Bellamy Homes. “None of this could have happened if businesses weren’t so forthcoming.” During the week-long project, area restaurants provided breakfast, lunch and dinner to the people who worked day and night shifts to build the home. Volunteer Rita Martin of Alexis, N.C., made sure the food tent had supplies. Her husband Gary was in the trenches, doing everything from painting walls to hanging pictures. “Gary and I don’t give each other Christmas gifts,” says Rita Martin. “Our gift is giving to someone else. It doesn’t take much to help someone.” Move that bus!The big unveiling came just before midnight on December 17, 2011, the evening of the Friday family’s return from Jamaica. Hundreds of volunteers, neighbors, spectators, friends and family – including some of the Fridays' former foster children – stood with the Fridays and helped Pennington, bullhorn in hand, encourage the cast to “Move that bus!” Gone was the brick ranch house. In its place stood a two-story 4,000-square-foot house with enough bedrooms, living rooms and playrooms for a family to live comfortably. No more makeshift bedrooms in carports. No more cramped living quarters. “This is God’s work,” says Devonda. “You ask the Lord to provide and he does.” ABC will broadcast the Fridays’ story on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in a two-hour Christmas special in December 2012. While "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has been canceled as a weekly show, the Fridays' episode will be one of four EM:HE specials to run in this upcoming year.
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