By HOLLY KOZELSKY – Bulletin Staff Writer
Source: Martinsville Bulletin

How does a company build an entire house for free in nine days, with six weeks notice?

The answer will be revealed in May or June on the season finale of the television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Part of the show was being filmed Wednesday in the Nationwide Custom Homes plant in Martinsville.

On each episode of the program, which airs on the ABC network, a deserving person or family is provided with a new house donated by volunteers. The winner is notified and immediately sent away on vacation while volunteers build the new house on the recipient’s lot within a week.

For the first time, the show will feature a modular home, said the show’s interior designer, Michael Moloney. The materials and time to build the house are being donated by Nationwide and its employees, and its windows are donated by West Window, also of Martinsville.

In the plant Wednesday, dozens of Nationwide employees wearing blue Extreme Makeover T-shirts were involved constructing the sections of the house side by side. Among them roved a producer, a camera man, a sound technician and Moloney.

“This is the first time we’ve done anything like this,” Moloney said.

Previously, each house was built on location. “Seven days on location – it’s chaotic, dealing with the elements, and here it’s controlled. … It shows America how efficient they (modular houses) are,” he said.

Having the house arrive ready to assemble will mean the crew on site “will have much less work to do, and that is a great bonus,” Moloney said. “This house goes up in a matter of four hours, and we come in and do our magic” to finish and decorate it.

Modular houses normally are painted and finished in the factory, but this house will be finished on site to suit the style of the family who will live in it, without giving clues beforehand who the family is.

To comply with labor laws, employees did not work off the clock. Instead, they participated in a payroll deduction plan in the spirit of donating their time. Most employees volunteered to donate $100 from their pay through four payroll deductions of $25 each, said Tommy Rakes, vice president of operations.

Employees have given “phenomenal support” to the project, he said.

“It’s been a tough economy and rough weather, and folks are smiling a bit more” as they work on this project, added Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dan Goodin.

Nationwide contacted the television show “about a year ago and asked them if they wanted to try a modular,” Goodin said.

Extreme Makeover officials called Nationwide in mid-January to say that they would like Nationwide to build the house for the show. The catch was it had to be finished in six weeks.

“When the call came in, you have to react quickly,” Goodin said.

Employees were called in to a meeting where the proposal to build the house was made, including the payroll-deduction donations, and they reacted with excitement and support, he added.

Richard Hodge, a member of the utility crew, said the workers are too focused on their goal now to get excited over being on TV. “It’s a real challenge. … We have a deadline we have to meet, and we’re determined to get there.”

The rapport in the plant is good because the project “was to help someone. As long as we can help someone else who really needs it, we’re working to do as much as we can,” said Hodge, who was building the house’s walls Wednesday.

The house’s design is a secret. Goodin would describe it only as “a very complex design. It’s much more complex than we typically do, but not more than we can handle.”

The show has narrowed the pool of applicants for the house to five families. The winning family will be notified during a personal visit from a representative of the TV show. While family members go on vacation, their lot will be cleared and the new house will be built, furnished and decorated, and their lot will be landscaped, all by volunteers.

Goodin, Nationwide President Andy Miller and associates James Seekford and Andrew Snuggs will coordinate the prepartion in Georgia. They will leave Sunday, and the house components will be brought to the site and put together the week after that.

Nationwide is coordinating the Georgia volunteers, especially through its Web site, So far, about 400 volunteers and 200 groups in the Georgia area have expressed interest in helping. Thirty-nine of the company’s “key builders are donating time and materials,” Goodin said.

“It’s a huge production,” Goodin said.

As well as construction, Nationwide will coordinate meals, shuttlebuses, tents and more for the volunteers.

The show, which will be the season finale, will air in May or June. Nationwide is planning a big viewing party for Nationwide’s 200 employees and other local people associated with the project.