'Makeover' House Makes A Huge First Impression

Ginyard family members cheer as the bus blocking their view moves to reveal the home built by
Ginyard family members cheer as the bus blocking their view moves to reveal the home built by "Extreme Makeover." (Photos By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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By Fulvio Cativo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 21, 2005

John Ginyard saw the house at 4333 Urn St. in Capitol Heights yesterday but couldn't believe it was his new home. "How is it even on Urn Street?" asked the ecstatic 17-year-old as his family hopped, clapped and cried in amazement.

"This is not our spot," he said, dashing around the street, where hundreds of neighbors, volunteers and spectators roared with joy.

"It's real grass. It's got like 20 windows, versus two!"

Shortly after 3 p.m., the Ginyard family got its first look at its new house, the first to be filmed in the Washington region as part of the popular television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

The ceremonious unveiling of the new Ginyard home capped off a hectic week on Urn Street, where a crew for the ABC show descended late last week to send 44-year-old Veronica Ginyard and her seven children on vacation to Disney World in Orlando while hundreds of volunteers helped raze and rebuild their dilapidated two-bedroom home.

Before they began work, the wife of one crew member was beaten with a gun Aug. 13 during an armed robbery in the lobby of a Largo hotel, where some members of the crew were staying. The incident proved to be a relative speed bump, though.

Yesterday, blue-shirted volunteers and yellow-shirted friends of the Ginyards waited several hours under a blistering sun for the family, which arrived in a stretch SUV limousine.

Once they got out of the limo, the family stood in front of a bus, which blocked their view of the home. Then they screamed the command, "Bus driver, move that bus."

The massive new Ginyard house -- a three-story structure with gray siding, white window frames and black shutters -- is the polar opposite of their old home.

"The living conditions of this family wereunbearable," said Allen West, president of Somerset Homes, the builder selected by ABC. Dozens of companies donated building supplies, appliances and other items.

The house -- just outside the District line and a few blocks north of Pennsylvania Avenue -- had become hazardous, with exposed wires sticking out of the drywall, mold from flooding in the basement and holes in the walls and ceilings. Several of the children had makeshift bedrooms in the attic with no air conditioning.

"They needed this," said Robin Pasdiora, a friend of Veronica's who helped the family submit the application to be on the television show. "They have a better house and a better way of living. They were on top of each other."

Spectators swooned at the sight of TV handyman and heartthrob Ty Pennington, who was dressed in a pair of weathered jeans and a cut-off flannel shirt. Not long before the bus moved, Pennington could be heard telling the family about their new house.

"It's also a little bit bigger than your old house," he said.

Show and crew officials have been secretive about the features of the new home, to maximize the surprise for viewers of the show. But donors, volunteers and sponsors say the house is state-of-the-art.

"The technology that's in this home is really exciting," said Christopher M. Creager, a senior vice president of network services with Verizon, which donated about $7,000 in equipment. He said one of the children's rooms has several televisions in it, and the house has satellite television programming and wireless Internet.

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) were at the unveiling and got prime viewing spots for the arrival of the Ginyards, embracing them not long after they got out of their limo.

When it was time to enter the house, the Ginyards lined up at the front door. Still in disbelief, Veronica touched rocks and plants in her front yard to check if they were real.

As she approached the door, the single mother joined Pennington and her kids as she emphatically stomped her foot on the ground, wiping away tears and uttering the words, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

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