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TJB Homes on Extreme Makeover:Home Edition
The Swenson Lee Family
Extreme Makeover Home Edition 100th Episode 2 Hour Special
Erik & Vicki Swenson, both teachers and coaches in Minneapolis suburbs, went from a family of 3 to 9 within months - after a horrible tragedy!
They were a family of three, and the impending birth of twins would make it 5, when Vicki's sister and mother of 4, Teri Lee, was murdered by her exboyfriend.
In the early morning hours of September 22, 2006, Teri Lee's ex-boyfriend, whom she had a restraining order against, broke into the family's home and fatally shot Lee and her boyfriend. The children, who lost their father in a car accident just a few years before, were home at the time. Lee's daughter, then 11 years old, witnessed the shootings. Police found her two young brothers cowering in a closet. While the children were not physically harmed, they were left with deep emotional scars that will take a lifetime to heal.
Teri Lee had done everything she could to protect herself and her family from her abusive ex-boyfriend. She got a restraining order and alerted police, neighbors and teachers. She even installed a state-of-the-art alarm system. As a result of her death, Lee's sister, Vicki, has fought tirelessly to call attention to the issues facing victims of domestic violence and has helped pass legislation that would protect them from the same fate as her sister. She played a key role in the passage of a bill in the Minnesota State Legislature requiring a picture on all restraining orders, making it easier for victims to alert others of who is involved. Another bill she has worked on addresses domestic violence training.
Vicki Seliger Swenson and husband, Erik, adopted Teri's four children and brought them into their three bedroom home. With three children of their own and twins on the way, the Swenson-Lee family doubled in less than a year and had seriously outgrown their house. That changed thanks to TJB Homes and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
The Swensons are now a family of 10! Their original home was a 2 Story with 3 Bedrooms, 2.5 Bathrooms, and 2,300 Square feet on a .7 acre lot. The new home is 5,600 square feet with 7 bedrooms and 5 baths. The cabinets, windows, and fixtures from the original home were salvaged and donated to other families in need.
How do you achieve the impossible? How do you build a home that would normally take more than 6 months, do it in less than 106 hours, and DO IT FOR FREE?
This was TJB's first Extreme Home: Home Makeover, and in the words of TJB's Tom Budzynski, "To this day, no one at TJB Homes is exactly sure why we were selected to build the home. We call it the 'hand of God.' Would we do it again?? I've been asked that many times, and it's the hardest question to answer. A second time around will never be as special as the first, but we would not pass on a worthy cause, and a chance to create a new good feeling by helping someone in need and paying it forward.
As builders we are all about community. With acts of kindness like this, big and small, we can go beyond the walls and roofs and help build roofs and help build a stronger fiber for our communities."
The Sandy Morris Family
When Sandy's daughter was born, she left a high-paid job in the public school system to open a day care in her home. Now, her 3 story, 100 year old home was crumbling around her and she was being forced to close the day care that had become an important center of community life and education.
Fourteen years ago, Sandy was pregnant with her first child and working as an early childhood teacher in the Saint Paul public school system. When Sandy looked at her day care options she realized there were none that met her standards, so she quit a promising career and started her own in the community where she'd grown up. Most high quality day care was too expensive for Sandy's neighbors, so she found ways to run hers at a lower cost. She charged just enough to support herself and her family, and tailored her charges to family need-offering payment plans and whatever it took to help families through financial difficulty. Sandy might lose money, but she never turns anyone away. The quality of Sandy's day care is so high that the Mayor of Saint Paul sent his son to her. "People sign up for Sandy's day care years in advance, before they even conceive children, so they can attend." Everyone knows she could open the same day care in a wealthy suburb and charge a great deal more, but Sandy remains committed to her community.
Her parents came from Puerto Rico, and Sandy brings both her Spanish language and Hispanic culture of togetherness into her day care. The kids call her "Tia Sandy" (Aunt Sandy) and she truly makes the parents of her day care kids feel like family. Sandy believes children learn through work and play, and she focuses a lot on interaction and socialization; she provides meals, has group time and art time. Besides her day care, Sandy also spends time volunteering at El Arco Iris, a summer dance club for kids. After class, she has the kids to her house for lunch and play until their parents get home from work - free of charge. Sandy has received a special award each year from the director of the program, recognizing her hard work in the community.
Following in their mother's footsteps, Sandy's children, Catricia and Mychal, spend their summers doing community outreach through the Youth Apprenticeship Program, "Peace Jam" - an exclusive youth outreach of 20 local students per year, planning fun events geared to combating violence.
Sandy's day care operated from the same 100+ year old home her parents bought when they moved to Minnesota. The roof leaked with every rain, the foundation was sinking, the porch was separating from the house, and many of the support beams were cracking. The numerous repairs needed to make the home structurally safe threatened to shut down Sandy's day care and, along with it, a vibrant and supportive pillar of this multicultural community.
This was TJB's second Extreme Home: Home Makeover, and Tom Budzynski's second chance to coordinate such a big effort to "pay it forward." Tom and TJB Homes have always done considerable charitable outreach, but this was a huge opportunity to give back. "We were blessed to be chosen," said Tom - 7 days, 96 hours of building, "where one hour was equivalent to two+ days on a regular job site." Ed Sanders from Extreme Makeover told us on leveling the old property, "It's your house now, we'll be back in less than 106 hours (to see a new one)!"
"The neighborhood was bustling with activity for several blocks around. Handmade signs in neighbor's windows welcomed crew and volunteers. Crowds in the hundreds watched the progress, and the entire rebuild was done in less than 96 hours. Over 3,000 staffers, workers, volunteers and others, worked through chilly rain-soaked days to build this for Sandy and the kids."