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The challenges of two 'extreme makeovers'

Sean Murphy, president of G&M Contracting in Arlington, Va., had a challenge.

His company, which had been asked to rebuild a house in Hyattsville, Md., for ABC Television's "Extreme Makeover — Home Edition" last August, was facing a time crunch.

Construction was to start in four weeks, and Murphy was calling other companies and contractors to donate their time and materials.

"In this economic environment, it was really hard to get people to donate time and services because everybody's hurting," said Murphy, a Mormon who attends the Wakefield Ward in the Annandale Virginia Stake.

"We had four weeks to plan for this prior to the build, and trying to get all these people together was really tough. It was day in and day out on the phone. Lots of days, everybody said no to us, so that was hard to get up the next morning and start calling people again."

In the end, everything worked out and the work all got done.

The episode of "Extreme Makeover" showing Murphy's work will air Sunday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. MST on ABC, he said.

The project comprised both the house rebuild in Hyattsville, plus a rebuild of the Fishing School, a youth learning and community support center in Washington, D.C. The school was founded by Tom Lewis to give inner-city kids a place to do their schoolwork, get life guidance and learn to follow the right path. That project was done by Warrenton, Va.,-based Burch Builders Group, where Murphy's brother, Matthew, is director of production.

Matthew Murphy, a member of the Centreville Virginia Stake, says he faced some of the same obstacles as he called to seek donations of materials and labor toward the project in the month before actual construction began.

"Planning was tremendously hard," he said.

During the week of construction, scheduling workers was a challenge, too. "Being off an hour in the schedule … can throw everything off. All in all, it's amazing that it actually works out."

On the house in Hyattsville, Sean Murphy says there was one surprise after it was demolished.

"We had bad soil and we ended up having to dig down 18 feet to get to solid ground. That was tough. That didn't help."

G&M was asked by the production company to make the home as energy-efficient and "green" as possible.

"That was a neat challenge, dealing with all these kinds of things in a week where we had to do geothermal wells for the (heating and air conditioning systems) and structurally insulated panels for all the framing … of the house's exterior walls and roof," Murphy said. "We did solar panels and compact fluorescent lighting throughout the house," as well as insulated concrete forms for the foundation.

"I think the most stressful thing was the preparation of it. Once the actual build started, it was fun at that point. That's the part I like."

The Tripp family — with three young sons — had been living in an 800-square-foot house.

"We met the family," Murphy said. "They're very nice (and) very involved in their church. They call it a bus ministry where they drive buses and take people to church.

"Their house was falling apart and it's small … and they do a lot of stuff with the children in the neighborhood — after-school care, where they provide a safe place for the children to come after school, and she helps them out with their homework and they cook for them, have dinner, things like that. They were chosen because of that."

Murphy says the Tripps were excited to see their new house — and some refurbished buses. He said entertainer Tyler Perry, the guest star for the episode," donated money to have the church's buses repainted, new seats put in."

Murphy says he would do such a project again — despite the hectic last week in August when he was working 18 to 20 hours a day.

"It blew me away how nice (everybody was) … it was a heavenly atmosphere. Everybody was just in a good mood, excited about doing this. At one point after we had just finished framing, we probably had 300 people in the house working together … usually trades don't work well together — the plumber doesn't like to be in the house at the same time as the electrician.

"Everybody was in at the same time, and I never heard anyone raise their voice. Everybody just worked together and it was just a real friendly atmosphere. It was fun."

Matthew Murphy said, "It's a week of my life that's a big blur."

Despite the stressful, exhausting project, "It was a neat experience … the cause was worth every minute of my time. (Lewis) is a man of God, he's a good man and he believes in the kids down there. A lot of those kids just need what so many of us take for granted — a little extra help to get them on their way. That was the really neat thing about the school. We weren't just touching the lives of one family, we were touching the lives of generations of kids."

e-mail: rwalsh@desnews.com