Many Hands Build a Home

February 4, 2010

Slaughterville, Okla. (Feb. 4, 2010) - There's a saying that "many hands make light work." That's a huge understatement when one considers what is happening in Slaughterville, Okla. right now. Thousands of volunteers are working side by side to build a new home for a family they'll probably never even meet. Mike Osburn, whose day job is working as a political consultant, is the volunteer coordinator for Ideal Homes, the builder for the latest Extreme Makeover: Home Edition build. Osburn was recruited to coordinate the masses of volunteers building a new home for Brian and Audra Skaggs, whose son survived a heart transplant as an infant. "My first priority was to get all the employees with Ideal Homes and their families, and Ideal's more than 7,000 homeowner families involved in this project, which entails building a home from the ground up in 106 hours. Then we opened up the Web site for volunteers. Within 48 hours, we had 1,500 volunteers, and in another two days we had 2,500. It's been an amazing experience of the power of the human spirit here in Oklahoma," Osburn said. "The spirit of volunteerism and the desire to help has exceeded all my expectations. For example, a group of sorority girls from the University of Oklahoma showed up and helped load 30,000 pounds of shingles. I doubt they woke up thinking they would be doing something like that in their community. "I look at the building site and see all the blue shirts that identify the volunteers. These people are not getting paid, they're working in cold, wet and muddy conditions, and yet with every shift, we've had more volunteers show up. It's a testament to how much people want to help this family." No greater example of that may be Debra Gruber, who is deaf and works for Ideal Homes. She was so excited about the project that she flew her mother and daughter to Oklahoma from California so they could help build the Skaggs a new home. Debra has also recruited her husband and his son as well. "Debra was so excited about this project that she literally hasn't been able to sleep," said Jason Gruber of Moore. "It's not every day you get to be involved in a project like this and it's really gratifying to be making a difference." Gay Dawn Magee of Blanchard shares a similar story as to why she volunteered. "I've built five houses in my lifetime, and there's a great deal of satisfaction in doing something for a family in need like the Skaggs. I've done a little bit of everything from unloading rock for the fireplaces to cleaning the interior walls to be painted. It's a good feeling to be useful and we'll all have something to show for the work we've done this week." Linda Landers of Norman lives in an Ideal Homes neighborhood, and when she heard about the project, she knew she wanted to be involved. "I like helping other people, and it just makes you feel good," Landers said. Landers, who lost her husband more than a year ago, said he would have loved this project as well. "I imagine he's smiling down on me right now." Roy and Heather Colley of Norman are also typical of the helping spirit being displayed this week. "I'm a stay at home Mom, and I do a lot of volunteer work," she said, "but never anything on a scale like this. It's an uplifting experience, to say the least." To say that having a new home is a blessing to the Skaggs is an understatement. Having spent all their resources on two-year old Jhett's heart condition, taking care of their existing moldy, rotten and termite-ridden home was a challenge...not to mention the risk to Jhett's weakened immune system. And when it's all said and done, the Skaggs will walk into their new home feeling very blessed and humbled by the generosity of thousands of people. It's just another example of what some people refer to as the "Oklahoma Standard." In the face of adversity, the people who call Oklahoma home pull together for the greater good, experiencing first-hand the joy of giving back.

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