Exclusive: Reality Show Comes to Backyard of TMR Columnist!

Earthquakes, hurricanes, and Extreme Makeover Home Edition, oh my!

By , Contributor

Sussex County, Delaware is a sleepy sort of area that ends at the shores of North America right on the Atlantic Ocean. Summers are busy affairs around these parts as the tourists flock to the pristine sands of Rehoboth Beach for fun, sun, and ocean waves. The rest of the year Sussex County, Delaware kind of lumbers along. It’s known as Delaware’s “lower and slower.” Before the invasion of ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Route 9 in Sussex County looked mostly liked this:


I took these photos from my car window, thus they are far away and perhaps a bit fuzzy. For should a native Sussex Countian dare to stop within a two-mile radius of the locale of ABC’s infamous reality show which has locals rebuilding a home for a deserving recipient, as determined by ABC of course, they will be quickly escorted back to their vehicle to go on their way.

One might smile in bemusement that a local Sussex County resident who writes a reality TV column for a large and happening Internet site proudly advertised as the purview for the swanky would have her life suddenly stopped, stalled, thwarted, debated and otherwise set to turmoil over an event involving … duh, a REALITY SHOW!

We’ll throw in the earthquake and hurricane just for good effect and now that same reality show columnist for the swanky web site has all the elements for a blockbuster exclusive and mesmerizing column. Never mind the pictures taken while driving the Jeep, they are not the stuff that will win Pulitzers for the focus but they do, quaintly, illustrate the tumult sprung upon a peaceful citizenry that has, for the past few weeks, alternately cursed and cheered this charitable but nonetheless inconvenient intrusion into their lives.


“Jussst Sooup Ranch” is well known in the local area. It is run by a local minister and it is supported by the locals 'round these parts, including very handsome contributions made by my own church, located right up the road from this charitable endeavor. Like the name would imply, Jussst Sooup Ranch makes soup for the homeless and it has become a haven for the hungry that roam the coast of the mid-Atlantic, even causing additional charities to spring up that take in the cold and sleepless.

I first learned that Extreme Makeover Home Edition was coming to this area on our local radio station. The very first issue was ABC’s request that the local school district provide the transportation, via school buses, for the many thousands of workers that would need to be brought to and from the designated job site.

typennington.jpgExtreme Makeover Home Edition is an ABC offering that has host Ty Pennington and his team descend upon the often desperate home sites of individuals in need of some help. The people chosen for a home makeover do nominate themselves but the unofficial ABC criteria is that they must be, on some level, “deserving” of the help. Thus a family with a seriously handicapped child that also involves itself in the community toward a greater good would be nominated over a needy family with a seriously handicapped child not as involved with the outside world. There is, of course, a limit to how many homes ABC can make over, and most of America smiles in benevolence at a needy but giving family getting a boost they so deserve.

ABC doesn’t pay the money to rebuild these homes. A local contractor is contacted and asked to lead the effort to rebuild these homes. Home Depot and Sears are big donators to Home Makeover. It’s a source of commercial exposure, indeed, let’s not be coy about this.

The local yokel company near me charged with leading this home makeover is a company called Schell Brothers. I’ll throw in a little tidbit here that this same company was recipient of the largesse of the government for the act of just not developing the land they own, a local source of political exasperation. I mean if I can’t throw out tidbits that only a local like me would know, what good are my logistics in the matter?

For a few days the locals phoned in to the radio station, some railing against using taxpayer money to help ABC in this endeavor for a family that was not, at the time, known. It was a bit of a hoot but the issue was removed from the table when the local utility company agreed to underwrite the cost of transporting workers to the job site.

It’s the biggest thing to happen to Sussex County, Delaware since... well, the recent earthquake was a big event. And the upcoming hurricane could be considered major stuff.

It’s like, you can’t make this stuff up. Sussex County glides along with absolutely nothing going on save a teeth-gritting summer tourist season to suffer through for these past ten years that I’ve lived here. In a one-month period, we are wracked with an earthquake and this weekend Hurricane Irene is coming our way. In fact, it’s all the gossip that the ABC people have to work round the clock to get this done before Irene comes to town. By all accounts the building site survived the earthquake quite handily but I’m sure they’ll mention this event when the show airs.

I go to the hardware store perhaps once a year. Today, as I wend my way around the building design site, only three miles from my house, I could hardly get waited on to purchase my deck paint as the store was filled with ... guess who? Workers from Extreme Makeover Home Edition!

The highways and byways of Sussex County are filled with billboards advertising the famed ABC show’s presence in our midst. Schell Brothers, is, of course, taking full advantage of the publicity.

They’ll now have the earthquake, which did hit this coast of Delaware on Tuesday, causing my dog to freak a full 45 minutes before it struck and moving my recliner chair to go round and round. I was sure an animal had somehow found its way into my favorite chair for the last thing I suspected was that the earth below me was moving. Earthquakes are just not things we know about here in the swamps.

Besides the hardware store, I go to the grocery, which is at capacity because Hurricane Irene is due to arrive this weekend, never mind my weekend plans of a crab feast and a houseful of guests. I rather doubt we’ll get that deck painted in a hurricane.

So when yon reader watches the episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition involving building a new home in the swamps of Delaware for the Rev. Dale Dunning you can be smug that you knew all about it many months before it aired.

I don’t know when this particular episode will air but I do know that the season premiere is scheduled for September 25, on ABC, at 8p/7c.

Yes, I got a picture of the actual house being extremely made over. Look below the arrow and praise me, please, for risking life and limb to get it.


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Pat Fish has been a blogger for almost ten years. She has been published numerous times in the Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort book series and wrote for Blogcritics. She has written a few books and vows to write till death does part her from the keyboard. Pat loves to write about current…

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