News Story

ORU students aid "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" Joplin relief

By Ally Powell ('13)

ORU Extreme Makeover projectOral Roberts University students Jessica Copeland and Joe Ninowski had the opportunity to work side-by-side with the team of the ABC television show "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" in October. The homes were built to replace the ones damaged due to tornado devastation that happened last June.

"I have always been a fan of the TV show, but to be a part of the process was probably one of the most incredible volunteering experiences that I have ever had," says Ninowski. "To actually get to be there when the family went into the house for the first time was something that I will never forget."

They decided to apply to volunteer with "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" after attending Catalyst, a leadership conference in Atlanta, Ga.
One day prior to leaving, "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" contacted Copeland saying that they had room for two volunteers.

On Oct. 26, Copeland and Ninowski left for Joplin and arrived early the next morning to begin working. They started by picking up trash outside of the seven homes that were being remodeled.

"We were picking up trash outside of the last house on the street," Ninowski says. "I saw an open window on house seven. I went over and looked inside and saw about three people in blue shirts working. I asked if they needed any help. They said yes, and that is how we got our ticket into joining the interior furnishing team."

Normally, volunteers are not allowed to help finish homes. Copeland and Ninowski were the only volunteers who helped finish the last house. Everyone else working was a contractor, a designer or an "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" staff member.

"It was a complete miracle that we got to help," Copeland says.

Copeland and Ninowski began to arrange furniture, make beds, iron curtains and bed skirts, fold and hang towels, place furniture and paint walls.

"One of the coolest things that Jessica and I got to do was decorate the back yard," Ninowski says. "Jodi (the head design producer on house number seven) gave us free reign of the entire backyard allowing us to decorate it. We went into the garage, where they had a huge selection of different furnishings that they could use."

Copeland and Ninowski worked from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. After working, they watched the family walk into the home for the first time.

"Before the family of house seven had left, they had absolutely nothing," Copeland says. "Knowing that I was able to be a part of something so much bigger than myself by helping finish their home was absolutely amazing."

"I had not really been to see the Joplin destruction until that day," Ninowski says. "It was really devastating but extremely fulfilling to be a part of a team that brought hope back to the area. It is a memory that I will never forget.

Both students hope to work with "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" again in the future.

"'Extreme Makeover Home Edition' is so much more than just a TV show. It is a way to restore hope to people who were hopeless," Copeland says.