You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
‘Welcome home, Harris family; welcome home!’
Shilo Harris and his family have their breath taken away as their new home is revealed this past January.
WCN CorrespondentDecember 12, 2012 2,058 views Post a comment
FLORESVILLE -- Maybe you watched last Monday’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on TV and cheered with other area residents as a local family received a new home, custom-tailored to meet their needs.
The program brought back many happy memories for area residents, who saw the fruits of their labors brought to millions of TV viewers nationwide as the program revealed the home built for a local Wounded Warrior.
When Gordon Hartman, founder of Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, received the proposal from ABC TV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” last year to build a home for retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris, a wounded veteran, and his family, he was more than happy to do it. Hartman said that Harris is such an incredible individual for his service to our country and in his continued service to wounded warriors who are recovering from injuries sustained in the war. Morgan’s Wonderland became the first-ever nonprofit organization to handle an Extreme Makeover project.
The fully accessible fun park in San Antonio is dedicated to being involved with people who have special needs, Hartman said, and he was happy to be involved with the Extreme Makeover people, whose passion it is to serve those who need special homes in order to carry out day-to-day life.
Hartman said approximately 1,000 volunteers work on a typical building site for Extreme Makeover; the project for the Harris family drew 3,400 volunteers. The TV team and volunteers had a 108-hour window to build the house -- roughly 4-1/2 days from framing for concrete to opening the door to the family. Hartman coordinated all the builders, donations, news coverage teams, and food donations.
Once in a lifetime
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Kevin Brown, owner of Abrego Development Co., one of the building companies on this Extreme Makeover project, of this experience.
Brown said the building schedule was 30 pages long, taking the project from framing the concrete to turning the key in 108 hours. They managed to complete the build in 101 hours; that set a record. Part of their success was the good Texas weather. Brown said a crew building a home in Kentucky had rain every day during their build. The other key to keeping the build on schedule was how well the teams worked together. Instead of destroying the Harris family’s doublewide mobile home, Brown said, the crew pulled it off the site and auctioned it, with the proceeds benefiting helpingahero.org, a charity that works to assist veterans wounded in the war on terror. (See “Helping a Hero” for more information.) The proceeds helped the organization provide 10 more homes to other wounded veterans.
According to Brown, Jon Wayne Heating and Air designed the HVAC system for the home; this was very important, due to Shilo Harris’ delicate respiratory requirements.
The Extreme Makeover crew was very impressed with how the teams worked together, said Brown, who managed the night shift during the build. They said that it was the smoothest build they had ever had.
Night and day
Jeanine Schoenert, owner of D&D Custom Homes, was the project manager for the build and was in charge of the day shift.
When anyone came to her and asked, “Where do I go? Where do I take this? Where does this go?” she had to be ready to tell them exactly what needed to be done and where and when.
“I loved it,” Schoenert said. “It was an experience of a lifetime. Super hard work. It was the most important thing I’ve ever done.”
“The camaraderie was unbelievable,” she added.
They were all strangers when they began the job, she said, but by the end of the job it felt like they had worked together for 50 years. According to Schoenert, Hartman’s crew was unbelievable.
I told her that when I walked through the home, I saw so many people working on the drywall, it was like drywall ballet. All the movements were synchronized and they all worked in harmony.
A passion for special needs
Josh Gerstner, the building contractor for Gordon Hartman, said, “All my building is for special needs people. It’s my passion.”
He likes to help people. This was his first time building for Extreme Makeover.
“Most of us had never worked together, and after the week I felt like Jeanine Schoenert was my sister,” he said of his experience. “We called her ‘Mom’ because she kept all of us controlling, macho men in line.”
And she kept things running smoothly, he added.
Gerstner worked 20- to 22-hour shifts and kept his RV on the site so he could nap between shifts.
He said the Extreme Makeover team was fantastic. After seeing how the Extreme Makeover building schedule worked, he has adopted the same idea on every building project he does. He broke ground on a 5,000-square-foot house in early October and he’s moving into it already.
Friends old and new
La Vernia resident Gina Trowbridge worked on the home for two days on the 2-8 a.m. night shift. She also participated in the San
Antonio River Walk filming.
Trowbridge said she and her husband, Charlie, arrived on site the day they were framing for the concrete pour. She said they watched the workers smoothing out the concrete with trowels and the next thing they knew the workers were standing on it and the walls were being raised into place!
She served food and picked up trash every hour, but also got to do some “artsy stuff” -- spray painting some lamps and hand-painting some western village miniatures to decorate one of the rooms. While she was painting, Trowbridge looked up, and across the table she thought she recognized a woman.
“Do I know you?” she asked the woman, who responded, “Did you used to be Gina Means?”
“Carol?” Trowbridge asked.
Sure enough, these gals graduated from high school together in 1981 and had not seen each other since. Carol was there with her church team.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to know that you are involved with people who were working toward a common goal of helping people who are so deserving,” Trowbridge said.
While working on the project, she kept saying to herself, “I can’t believe I’m out here actually doing the work on the show that I love to watch!”
Trowbridge met and got a photo taken with the show’s star, Ty Pennington, and was able to talk with him.
She and Charlie dressed in Christmas outfits, held signs, and waved flags during the River Walk filming, which was attended by 11 or 12 other wounded warrior families; unbeknownst to these wounded veterans, they were to be given keys to new houses through Helping a Hero.
Trowbridge said she cried so much she ran out of tissues, and when Lee Greenwood stepped onto the stage of the Arneson River Theatre to sing “God Bless the USA,” she really boo-hooed.
Kevin Brown hosted a reunion of folks who worked on the Harris family’s home Dec. 10 at the Kicaster Country Store near La Vernia. He said one of the guys from Colorado was planning to trek to Texas for the gathering.
Helping a Hero
Helping A Hero nominated Shilo Harris and his family for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” This national nonprofit organization provides “... support for military personnel, severely injured in the war on terror,” according to www.helpingahero.org. “Our principal activity is to provide specially adapted homes for qualifying service members as well as engaging the community to provide services and resources for our wounded heroes and their families.”
The organization takes into account the special needs of the wounded veterans. For burn victims, they work hard to limit light entering the home. For quadriplegics, care is taken to allow for roll-in showers and wider doorways to facilitate mobility.
“It is truly an honor to build these homes for our heroes who are daily reminded that America cares and that we have not forgotten the sacrifice they made to protect our great nation,” the website states.
See Online Photo Gallery:
•Photos by Wilson County News Staff: http://www.InstantImageGallery.com/iig/a/254/263491
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Section A: General News Archives
American Legion ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Annexation for fire services will be on November ballot (May 25, 2016)
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts to honor fallen heroes (May 25, 2016)
Camino Real plans Open House events (May 25, 2016)
Chief Hull resigns from Poth police (May 25, 2016)
County sets sights on new tax (May 25, 2016)
Court Update (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: Grim choices have put America in a grave situation (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: On the other side of politics in a world of digital divide (May 25, 2016)
Fire, EMS services — Who’s got you covered? (May 25, 2016)
It’s okay to take control (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Free ride over hard work … a no-brainer! (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Housing Foundation expresses gratitude (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Mainstream media ‘brainwashing’ Hispanic/Latino voters (May 25, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Memorial Hospital District (May 25, 2016)
Memorial Day office closures (May 25, 2016)
One viewpoint: Making Floresville marketable with recreational facilities (May 25, 2016)
Parish plans Cemetery Ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Police arrest man in case of burned body (May 25, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 25, 2016)
Police ticket six for violating cell phone ban (May 25, 2016)
Post 539 service (May 25, 2016)
Poth electric vehicle users could be in for a shock (May 25, 2016)
Poth High School students earn awards (May 25, 2016)
Severe storms shred Wilson County (May 25, 2016)
SSCA ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Teacher salaries, student lunch prices on the rise (May 25, 2016)
Tejano music to fill the air during Labor Day event (May 25, 2016)
Turner: New businesses coming to Floresville (May 25, 2016)
Berger earns Ph.D. from Columbia University (May 18, 2016)
Brahma Happenings (May 18, 2016)
Burning body spurs murder investigation (May 18, 2016)
Can I negotiate? (May 18, 2016)
Court Update (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: Narrow views promote intellectual, moral dry rot (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: The political climate in America goes from bad to worse (May 18, 2016)
Falls City ISD’s new K-12 building almost complete (May 18, 2016)
Floresville parks master plan would relocate ball fields (May 18, 2016)
Floresville parks plan wins council approval (May 18, 2016)
Foundation awards $9K in grants (May 18, 2016)
Foundation opens health grant process (May 18, 2016)
Graco recalls booster seats (May 18, 2016)
Grass fires on the rise (May 18, 2016)
Letter: An open letter to Congress (May 18, 2016)
Letter: Illegal immigration: Who will laugh last? (May 18, 2016)
Letter: What Hispanic vote? (May 18, 2016)
Lone Star Greys to meet (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia City Council (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Poth ISD (May 18, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 18, 2016)
Police recover one of two stolen trucks (May 18, 2016)
Register for free watercolor lesson (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale campus to get upgrade soon (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale City Council approves electronic payment processing (May 18, 2016)
TAMU-SA matches student scholarships (May 18, 2016)
Time to make plans to attend Jubilee (May 18, 2016)
Want fire protection? Attend May 19 hearing (May 18, 2016)
Acme Gold Buyers marks fifth year in Floresville (May 11, 2016)
All Veterans Job Fair (May 11, 2016)
Cemetery group to meet (May 11, 2016)
Children’s Alliance enhances care services (May 11, 2016)
China Grove mayor, police chief trade barbs at meeting (May 11, 2016)
Commissioners lukewarm toward hot coffee at library (May 11, 2016)
Competency and integrity (May 11, 2016)
Court Update (May 11, 2016)
Coy to get Ranger Cross (May 11, 2016)
Cub Scout Roundup (May 11, 2016)
Donate blood in May (May 11, 2016)
Editor: Trump’s candidacy sets in motion affliction in future elections (May 11, 2016)
Editorial: The voters have spoken — well, some of them have! (May 11, 2016)
Former Sutherland Springs VFD considered as a substation (May 11, 2016)
Free caregivers class starts May 26 (May 11, 2016)
Information sought in Walmart theft (May 11, 2016)
Lack of super majority vote keeps Clean Water Rule flowing (May 11, 2016)
Leetter: The government is a terrible investor (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Injection well site is near river, creeks (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Stop being negative (May 11, 2016)
LV youths win new wheels at Bike Rodeo (May 11, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia ISD (May 11, 2016)
Mineral rights workshop set (May 11, 2016)
Miss LV Pageant, Bluebonnet Parade, graduation fill La Vernia calendar (May 11, 2016)
New Wilson County justice center nears completion (May 11, 2016)
Personalized brick for Veterans Memorial (May 11, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 11, 2016)
Precinct 3 primary runoff is May 24 (May 11, 2016)
Rangers to honor Lorenz (May 11, 2016)
Rohrs takes over Floresville athletics (May 11, 2016)
Tanneberger qualifies for Executive Club membership (May 11, 2016)
Voters respond: One bond passes, another fails (May 11, 2016)
Wednesday morning crash injures nine (May 11, 2016)
AACOG plans public meeting (May 4, 2016)
Accident injures two drivers (May 4, 2016)
AgriLife offers tips to protect from Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (May 4, 2016)
Behind the lens: Solitary stillness (May 4, 2016)
Celebration Mass June 12 (May 4, 2016)
Cemetery association meeting (May 4, 2016)
Condos are fine, but do your research (May 4, 2016)
Court Update (May 4, 2016)
Crime Stoppers aids police anonymously (May 4, 2016)
DA, DPS bust nets 86 charges (May 4, 2016)
Debate over citizens comments dominates Floresville council (May 4, 2016)
Dwellings At Home offers lodge, ranch furnishings, more (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Overbearing city council threatens boards’ independence (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Taking personal responsibility will bring possibilities (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Trump is the same old song with one more verse (May 4, 2016)
FEDC tables recommendation of master parks plan (May 4, 2016)
FELPS tornado repair continues as FEMA help stalls (May 4, 2016)
Floresville Chamber Luncheon May 18 (May 4, 2016)
Hall of Fame inductees: Joe Kotwig, Malcolm and Beverly Talley (May 4, 2016)
Letter: Alamo Colleges: A bust for Floresville (May 4, 2016)
Local nursing homes plan Senior Olympics May 9-13 (May 4, 2016)
Look twice for motorcycle riders (May 4, 2016)
Lyssy’s vault earns gold, sets records! (May 4, 2016)
Medicaid, CHIP application assistance (May 4, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Commissioners Court (May 4, 2016)
National Day of Prayer May 5 (May 4, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 4, 2016)
Ramirez promoted to colonel (May 4, 2016)
Reserve a seat for SA Tea Party (May 4, 2016)
Tanneberger tops in sales (May 4, 2016)
Treviño prepares to take reins of East Central athletics (May 4, 2016)