A Heartwarming Makeover

By Emma L. Carew
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 29, 2009

The residents of West Lanham Drive in Hyattsville got a big wake-up call last Saturday morning. One of their own was surprised by home-design celebrity Ty Pennington's trademark bullhorn call, "Good morning, Tripp family!" notifying them of their selection for the ABC show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Though it took multiple takes and some tree branches had to be cut down to allow better angles for the cameras, Nikema Tripp; his wife, Tamara; and their sons, Micah, 5, Ethan, 3, and Aaden, 9 months, tore out of their house, overjoyed and seeming surprised each time to find the "Makeover" crew on their lawn.

The show, which airs Sunday nights, focuses on one family each week. The families have run into hardship or are outstanding volunteers in their communities. Always, their home is inadequate for their needs and in dire need of improvement. Local companies donate labor and materials and work with the show's celebrity designers to make over the home in just a week while the family is sent on a free vacation.

Diane Korman, senior producer on the television program, said the Tripp family was nominated by parents of the children the couple care for after school with their bus ministry program. Tripp (who goes by his surname only) and Tamara lead a bus ministry for the Bowie-based Woodlawn Baptist Church, and they often invite the kids on their route to their home for activities, or drive out to visit them throughout the week.

"They take them to church, they have a good time on the bus, they sing songs, may have a little bit of preaching on the bus," said William Tyson, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist, which sponsors the bus ministries. He added that the Tripps go out of their way to make sure the children on their route have a place to hang out after school and on the weekends.

"It's not just a ministry that just happens on Sunday," he said. "It's a seven-days-a-week process for them." Designers from the show said creating large common space in the home will be a top priority.

"This house will be used," Tamara Tripp said last Saturday, before the family was whisked away to Walt Disney World (owned by the network's parent company) for a week.

The finished home is scheduled to be revealed today, and the episode is slated to run as a two-hour special this fall. While redoing the Tripps' home, the same crews are renovating the Fishing School, a youth support program in Northeast Washington.

Through the week, construction crews worked around the clock, replacing the family's old home with one nearly three times larger.

On Sunday morning, crews wielding heavy construction vehicles smashed the Tripps' 900-square-foot house.

More than 300 volunteer skilled laborers from Warrenton-based Burch Builders Group and Vienna-based G&M Contracting worked on rebuilding the house during the week. An additional 1,300 volunteers from United Way of the National Capital Area provided support, such as hauling trash and passing out bug spray and bottled water.

On Saturday morning, Ruth Messer, 57, who lives across the street from the Tripps, was sitting on her front steps with her son and grandson, watching television crews and support staff milling around the Tripp's home. Messer described West Lanham Drive as a quiet neighborhood, where most of the neighbors have resided for a while. The homes were originally built in the 1940s, she said.

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