Extreme Makeovers Making Extreme Impact

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America has watched ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition transform families' lives with new homes beyond their wildest dreams for seven years.
    
The programs are often "must see TV," but the stories don't end when the credits roll.

When Ty Pennington rolled into Toledo, Ohio for the show, it sparked excitement across the city; delivered long-awaited answers to prayer; and started a giving movement.

A Prayerful Beginning
 
"Looking back, it is a pretty miraculous thing how it all comes together," said home builder Tim Schlacter. He and his business partner Mike White started Buckeye Real Estate Group in the early 90's, and they were chosen to lead the project. It's an opportunity that came after Slachter prayed "The Prayer of Jabez" every day for three years.

"It was a prayer to God that said enlarge my territory, not in service to myself, but in service to others," said Schlacter.

For three years, in another part of Toledo, Firefighter Aaron Frisch and his wife Jackie prayed for a home bigger than the 1,800 square foot ranch they shared with their 12 children. In addition to their three biological sons, the couple adopted five boys from Haiti; three boys adopted from Toledo's foster care system and one girl.

"We had prayed and said, God, we believe you have asked us to take children," said Jackie Frisch. "But our house is full so we will have as many children as you give us space to accommodate."

Jackie also suffers from a debilitating illness called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or EDS.  It's a condition that weakens the tissues that support the skin, bones, blood vessels and other organs.

Prayers Answered 

For the Frisch family and builder Tim Schlachter, God's answer went "exceedingly above all they could ask or think."

"You know, what I think is amazing about God is how he meshes prayers," said Schlachter. "You stand in the middle and think we have got a lot to get done and Lord we have got two days of rain coming. How does this work out? It gives people the opportunity to see how through perseverance and faith it does work out."

Aaron, the father of 12, said, "My wife and I looked at each other and we said, 'Who is going to come out and build our house?' This is Toledo. I was involved in the North End riots and all that kind of stuff and I go out and I see the worst of society with the shootings and the stabbings and the overdoses."

Rally of Support

The best of the city came out for round-the-clock work. At least 4,000 hands helped build the more than 4,000 square foot home, complete with a prayer pond in the back yard.

They had 106 hours and lost nearly 24 hours to rain. But they manage to finish in 99 hours.

"The week of the build is kind of a blur," Schlacter said. "We stayed on site the entire time."

"Everyday I am reminded of the miracle of God's provision and what He has done for our family," Jackie  Frisch added. "So, it has been a whirlwind."

The House Next Door

There were an additional 2,000 volunteers who couldn't work on the project. And many were looking for an opportunity to keep the giving going in the city after the cameras stopped rolling.

They started a project called The House Next Door and delivered help to a family, just blocks away from Aaron and Jackie Firsch.

"It was just neat to see people say that is a great example," said Schlacter. "So I guess if you say you want to live as a model that someone taking that and saying what else can we do with it?"

Keeping the Giving Going

Brandon Lillibridge, 16, was paralyzed following a car accident -- just a month earlier. He was on vacation with his family, and decided to take a drive with his older brother, cousin and best friend.  The crash paralyzed Brandon and his friend.
 
Even in the midst of his tragedy, Brandon's father volunteered to help build the Frisch family's home.  He and his company donated all the cabinets.  But he also needed help to make his family's home more accessible for his son.

"We're a pretty quiet family.  Not real outgoing, and I didn't think a lot of people knew about us or of us when this happened," a tearful Craig Lillibridge said.  "Just out of the wood work, everyone was there to help."

What's Next?

The Lillibridges are the first family to receive help from The House Next Door project. These days, builder Tim Schlachter is praying he can keep the giving going in the face of tough economic times.

Home builders in Toledo have watched business decline dramatically in the last three years. Schlacter and his partner have also been forced to lay off some of their employees.
 
"The prayer today is just one of clarity. Where do we go from here?" asked Schlacter. "But as he waits for God's direction. The Extreme Makeover house is his reminder God hears and answers prayer."

*Originally aired Nov. 12, 2009

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Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.