Forty-nine Central Bible College (CBC) students and three staff members volunteered to help during the overnight shift at the filming location of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" program on October 25, 2011.
The show is airing its 200th episode with a historic build in Joplin, Missouri, which was struck by a devastating tornado earlier this year. Seven homes were completed in seven days with the help of 10,000 volunteers from 50 states working around the clock.
The CBC group arrived in Joplin at 7 p.m. Tuesday night and worked until 2 a.m. the next morning. Upon their arrival, they were given blue shirts, wristbands and hard hats for the construction site, and got straight to work. A portion of the team was scheduled to process registrations, organize T-shirts and clean hard hats while others worked on landscaping, moved furniture into the homes, installed or assembled house wares and helped the decorators with special projects inside the homes.
Olga Vigil, leadership development coordinator for national Girls Ministries, also traveled with the students and staff to help. Her husband, Dr. Jim Vigil, vice president for Student Development at CBC, was one of the volunteers. "The excitement in the air was electric," she says. "It was quite a contrast from my last visit to Joplin, where I served alongside many CBC students as a volunteer shortly after the tornado hit."
Students also helped lay sod and plant new flowers at a local park.
"With every episode, [the Extreme Home Makeover team] is able to do something in the community outside of building a house. In this case, they were able to redo Cunningham Park," says Phil Gocke, Student Ministries Coordinator at CBC.
The CBC students and staff were the second-to-last volunteer group before the big reveal. "We were coming in and helping when the homes were mostly complete, so it was finishing touch projects that we worked on. We also did a lot of landscaping ‹ planting flowers, putting down rocks, laying and watering sod," says Gocke.
Hannah Tayo, a missions major, was able to use her artistic talents to help the designers paint a pig mural in one of the children's rooms of a home. The girl liked pigs and had a stuffed pig that survived the tornado, so the mural in her room reflected that, Tayo explains.
Tayo, a Long Island (New York) Teen Challenge graduate, transferred to CBC and is a freshman there this year. "It was really exciting for her to be able to get involved in that way," says Gocke.
Vigil says that while she and her group of students and staff were processing registrations, suddenly some of the men, including her husband, were putting on hard hats and were being moved to the construction site where they were needed. "Without a single complaint from the men who expected to have a 'desk' job, they happily left to do manual labor," she says. "Debbie, the volunteer coordinator, found me in the tent and told me that everyone just loved our students ‹ they had made a great impression because they were hard workers and had a great attitude. The designers loved them."
"We were just available to help with anything they needed, and if anyone asked for any help from us, we were just willing to help," Gocke says.
In fact, the senior designer was so impressed that several students were invited to come back the next day to help with decorating one of the homes. "She noticed our commitment, saw our servant hearts and recognized our willingness to work," says Hannah Rone, senior at CBC.
Typically, volunteers are not asked to return for a second day of work. "[The designer] really appreciated our commitment and said she knew there was something different about us. I think that speaks for itself," says Rone.
"We are certainly really proud of our students that were involved," Gocke says.
Rone, who led a team of six other students, says it meant a lot that the designers asked her and the others to come back to volunteer again. "It was really cool being able to serve in a way like that," she says. "It's a practical way to show someone the love of Christ simply by being willing to help out. "
"Our drive home that night was filled with a deep sense of satisfaction," says Vigil. "I am personally grateful to have had the opportunity to see the other side of devastation. Those seven homes will forever be a beacon of hope and new beginnings for a community that was almost completely blown off the map."
Rone says she developed an attachment to the community and the people whose homes the teams worked on, especially after seeing pictures of the devastation and hearing what the families went through.
"It was an amazing experience, just to be able to give back to the community," she says. "It was really great to be able to establish a life for people who had lost everything."
This particular episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is expected to air January 2012.