Volunteers lend helping hand to family in need

Larraine Cox of Tolono, IL watches the filming of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on August 25, 2009 in Philo, IL. Cox lived in Philo for 22 years before moving to Tolono.

By Kristin Shaulis

Since its arrival, the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition crew has not only invaded Philo and Champaign County, but also local newspapers, radio stations and television channels. But the untold story is no longer the Montgomery family and their complete dedication to their community. Now, the lesser known aspect of the event might just be the community itself.

Over 100 volunteers donated their time and effort this past week to the new house that became a home today, as the Montgomery family finally returned from their week-long ‘exile’ to Disney World. And although viewers of the show may see Ty Pennington explaining what the crew is doing or occasionally helping cut some wood, the truth is he is usually only there when the cameras are on. Rather, there is a significantly more personal force behind the build.

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“We’ve known them (the Montgomery family) for years and they were our kids’ Sunday school teachers for quite sometime,” said Denise Roloff, of Mahomet, who spent her 26th wedding anniversary helping build the house with her husband, Jay. “We really love them a lot.”

And with very little time to build, there was plenty for everyone to do.

Ed Brady, president of Brady Homes, the builder of the project, said Thursday that cleaning up from the demolition, setting the foundation and framing were a few of the next steps to finishing the house.

“I’m sure there will be challenges, as with any build,” Brady said. “I tell our guys, if you have 90 days, you’ll build it in 90 days. If you have 104 hours, you’ll get it done in 104 hours.”

Brady went on to mention weather, materials and possible design issues (things that may have worked on paper but did not in reality) as potential obstacles for the upcoming build.

“A lot of it is just teamwork, and being able to work together and communicate together,” he said.

Although many of the volunteers did not know the exact plans for the day or what they would be doing specifically, they were there to help with whatever they could.

“We’re just kind of standing around and waiting right now,” said John Montgomery, Nathan Montgomery’s brother, who helped work on the house when he was not working at his full-time job. “We just got done putting up some barricades up over there and now we’re waiting for further instructions.”

The volunteer team’s dedication paid off, as the house was completed on schedule by Tuesday.

“We were really ahead of schedule, even though there were a few things that lacked,” said Phil Bussmann of Brady Homes. “It was really amazing how everyone — contractors and volunteers — came together.”

Karen Dillman, of Urbana, helped coordinate the donations for the siding and roofing for the Montgomery’s home. She, like many others, became involved after receiving a call informing their company about the family’s needs.

“It was awesome to watch it unfold in the community,” she said.

Volunteers were pulled from Philo and other surrounding communities, totaling over 2,500, along with workers from Brady Homes. The house, almost four times larger than the original one, is almost 2,800 square feet.

Marcia Jandura, of Heyworth, attended the event in support of the community. She carried with her a construction hat that she had every Brady Homes worker sign to take home to her daughter.

“I really support this. It’s good to bring the community,” Jandura said. “Hopefully it will help the food pantry that this family has begun.”

Montgomery said that someone in the community nominated the Montgomery family when approached by the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team and that his family helps to feed 250 to 500 families a week through the Salt & Light Ministry.

“I’ve been excited for months,” Montgomery said of the opportunity.

“I knew right away that they weren’t going to find anybody that deserved it more or that needed it more … he just helps the community constantly.”

Despite the house being 100 years newer and four times the size upon completion, the Montgomery family still has its priorities in line: family first.

“I’ve always been excited to come over and visit,” Montgomery said.

“You know, in our family it doesn’t matter where you’re at, it’s who you’re with.”