Local contractors lend an ‘Extreme’ hand

By Andrea Doyle

Photo by Steve Gugliociello
Members of the Llanes family stand in the street and catch their first glimpse of their new home in Bergenfield following the reconstruction done by “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

With the help of some very giving local contractors and the magic of ABC’s Emmy Award-winning reality television show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” two New Jersey families are now living in homes they could only dream about.

Beverly Turner, 54, a single mother and her nine adopted special-needs children have a brand new home in Irvington, replacing their old one that was destroyed by fire.

At three stories tall, this new house is said to be the biggest ever built by “Extreme Makeover.” It is entirely handicapped accessible, with a glass elevator in the middle. The Turner family’s new home was featured on the show’s two-hour season finale on ABC.

Former Rutherford resident Tim Supple, owner of Elmwood Park-based Supple Electrical Contracting, worked on the Irvington home for four full days.

At one point, he was wiring the house for 40 hours straight. This strenuous schedule took its toll, especially on his feet. “The bottoms started to bleed. I wrapped them up with gauze and kept on working,” he said. “This project was so amazingly coordinated. You could never take five because you knew others were waiting to start their jobs when you were finished. The old house was demolished 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. By Saturday at 4 p.m., the new house was up and we had the final inspection.”

Joseph Marino, president of Clifton-based Century 21 Construction Corp., and Jack Morris, president of Edgewood Properties of Piscataway, were instrumental in building the new home. They volunteered their companies’ services to tear down the burned-out shell of the old house and build the new one. They also presented Turner with a check for $300,000 to help with maintenance.

Not only was the show contacted by the builders, but by a letter-writing campaign that was undertaken by the Rev. George Orfanakos of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Clifton when he learned about this family from a parishioner who was a social worker assigned to two of the Turner children. Approximately 10,000 letters were written.

When Turner was told she could never have children of her own, she looked into adoption. Now, she has been a mom to 18 special needs children, including those who are autistic, blind, blind and confined to a wheelchair, and bipolar. Turner herself has her own challenge as she has myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune neuromuscular disease.

All escaped last year’s fire unharmed after a space heater fell over. The family was left homeless. Her insurance policy was only enough to cover the mortgage on the house, with no money left over to rebuild.

Enter “Extreme Makeover.” With the show’s trademark chant, “Move that bus,” the new home was unveiled to the children, many who cried with happiness, others whooping for joy.

It was amazing that within 96 hours, a new six-bedroom, seven-bath home was built, with a jaw-dropping kitchen, carnival room and kids’ bedrooms with racecar, basketball and boxing themes.

The giving didn’t stop with the house. A universally accessible park around the corner was also created complete with a gazebo and water feature. The new park was dedicated to Turner.

In order to successfully build the house in less than week, a construction schedule was followed minute-by-minute, room-by-room. The second story was framed while plumbers and electricians worked on the first. The builders donated their employees’ time, and subcontractors and other professionals they work with did the same, bringing a 3,000-member crew to the job.

“Extreme Makeover” camped out for a week in Bergenfield where they rebuilt a home on New Bridge Road for another needy family. The Llanes family includes 42-year-old Vicente who is blind due to a hereditary disease and came to the United States in 1997 from the Philippines in search of better medical care; his mother, who is also blind; his two daughters, who are going blind; his son, who is deaf due to German measles contracted by his mother during pregnancy; and his wife, who has thyroid cancer.

The old home was also demolished and a new one built featuring approximately $100,000 worth of the latest technology that helps those with vision and hearing problems. The team leader for this project was Academy-Award winning actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf.

The Pinnacle Companies, a real estate development and investment company that prides itself on offering its customers the most advanced technological innovations for the home, built the new Llanes home. Brian M. Stolar, president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle, calls the high-tech house the company built for the Llanes family the “Z Home” because “it takes technology as far as it can go.”

The high-tech gadgets incorporated into this Bergenfield home include the NoteTeller 2, that lets a blind person distinguish denominations of paper money up to $100, vibrating alarm clocks and a computer that converts text to sign language.

Pinnacle’s generosity did not end there. The Pinnacle Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 1995 by Pinnacle Companies, gave $150,000 to the family. Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, honorary chairman of the foundation, was there when the family returned from an ABC-sponsored vacation to present the check.

“The Pinnacle Foundation is proud to be involved in this project,” he said. “The total amount donated by Pinnacle Companies and other contributors has reached $150,000 and is still growing. Pinnacle Foundation will make some very wonderful people’s lives much easier,” said Kean.

The show featuring the Bergenfield home will air on ABC as a two-hour summer special although no specific date has been announced.