Everything’s going to be alright for Delores Powell and her family, thanks to an army of Buffalo soldiers and their well-aimed good intentions.
Last night, at Shea’s Buffalo Theater, the faithful gathered to witness the culmination of a dream come true, when the two-hour Buffalo special, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, aired on ABC.
The ABC show was responsible for bringing the the makeover to Powell’s family after a prompt from PUSH Buffalo, but it’s no wonder that Extreme Host, Ty Pennington said, “I mean, this is like more volunteers than I’ve seen anywhere.” Pennington said he hopes effort like the kind he saw here in Buffalo “ripple across the entire nation.”
PUSH, Buffalo ReUse, WNY AmeriCorps, and ReTree WNY all aided David Homes in bringing forth the best of what Buffalo had to offer. The extreme community effort was not lost on the national audience or ABC corporate, who has scheduled a new show, Extreme Makeover: Neighborhood Edition for a visit to Buffalo this summer, according to David Stapleton of David Homes.
There were an estimated 2,000 in attendance, and though the show pushed hard on some of the emotional aspects of the home rebuild, the effect on the surrounding community, and the extra effort to help Powell’s former school in Jamaica, there were portions of the show that called for, and elicited, a good deal of happy tears.
Stapleton, who appeared on the red carpet with his own young family and the Powell family (top image), made the pot sweeter still when he announced at the end of the program that the entire Powell family can attend his alma matter, Canisius College, tuition free, as presented by Canisius College President Rev. Vincent M. Cooke, S.J. To those who have said that Extreme puts new homes in the hands of people who have nothing else and little sustainability, it looks like the family has all bases covered in moving forward to new lives, with the home as a backdrop and refuge to the work ahead of them – work they’ve never shied from.
Because of Extreme Makeover and all of the volunteers, Delores Powell, a Jamaican immigrant who went to school barefoot and cooked over an open fire pit as child, has had her demolition-worthy house replaced with a sturdy abode and comforts beyond anything she could have imagined. Powell surely would have been happy with much less, but when you look at this family and the strength of its matriarch, you want her to have extreme “comfort,” the very word she squealed just before she dove onto the new bed in her new bedroom. No longer will the family need to share sleeping quarters just to stay warm.
Equally poignant was the scene in which Powell was surprised with a gift of many, many pairs of shoes the Extreme Team made to the children of Powell’s Jamaican school – a school she walked 5 barefoot miles to as a child.
Testimony from neighbors of Powell’s, whose homes were worked on by volunteer crews was inspiring as well. One man, Jim, who’d been working on rebuilding his porch for the longest time, saw the job completed by volunteers in days, making it one of the most quaint homes in the entire neighborhood. The gratitude from neighbors was sincere, and Powell, a member of PUSH herself, celebrated each one of these feats as much as those performed on her behalf.
PUSH Buffalo Lead Organizer Eric Walker (above, right) figured prominently in the Extreme show, and was a great spokesman for all of Buffalo. (His photostream on Flickr, shot and compiled by Buffalo ReUse’s Caesandra Seawell, has had record hits since the airing last night.) Here in town, we’ve always recognized Walker, PUSH Buffalo Executive Director Aaron Bartley (center) and Buffalo ReUse founder Michael Gainer (above, left) for their innovations in community betterment, and it’s only right that they have become heroes in other parts of the nation due to their work here. Kudos also to Founder and CEO Michael Lazarra for rallying the troops of WNY AmeriCorps.
Speaking of community, ReUse signed up another 80 volunteers last night, with PUSH and ReTree gaining a collective 30 or 40 more. There is no tally as of yet from the hard hats that were passed for cash, but they filled with green all night long. So ABC was a catalyst, but now that these separate entities have seen what can be done, there’s a good chance we’ll see more of it.