"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is giving a new home to a Knoxville, Tenn., family famous for helping their community's single-mother households.
The ABC reality TV series surprised Daniel and Mandy Watson yesterday with the announcement that their home will appear on a future episode guest starring actress Jenny McCarthy. The couple founded Knoxville's The Restoration House in 2005, and have supported the city's single-mother families through non-profit work ever since.
The Watson's house has deteriorated, however, and as repair bills have built up, "Extreme Makeover" entered to save the day. The show plans on giving the Watsons and their three adopted children a new home by next Tuesday while they're whisked away to a vacation in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Fla. By the time they're back, the show will have built them a new dwelling free of debt and disrepair.
"We always look for families that are very deserving," said George Verschoor, one of the show's two executive producers. "This young couple comes from a place of genuine giving and didn't expect to get such national attention for their efforts. They're now being helped by the city of Knoxville. They couldn't believe all these people had turned up to help them."
Carol Reeve, The Restoration House's committee chair for marketing and fund development, said the Watsons each grew up in single-mother families. Their upbringings inspired them to help families in similar situations, she said, and they launched their group to provide mentoring and financial consultation to member mothers. Participating families typically enroll in a two-year program, she said, and gain empowerment through education, financial aid and counseling.
"Mandy and Daniel truly believe it takes a village to raise a child," said Reeve, who spoke for the Watsons during their vacation. "To try doing so without the support of the mother and father is extremely difficult. Our mission statement is clear that we want to restore single-mother families to God's given purpose in their lives. They become so brave in this program that they literally grow taller."
In keeping with their mission, Reeve said the Watsons adopted their three children as a way of helping the less fortunate. She said the Watsons adopted their son Atley and their daughter Ava from local single-mothers with at-risk pregnancies, while their youngest son Silas is an Ethiopian saved from abandonment and tetanus.
"I can't imagine a more selfless family than the Watsons," Reeve said. "They've always put the benefit of other people before themselves."
Reeve said The Restoration House was currently supporting five mothers and 11 children. While the Watsons struggled to care for their fellow community members, she said, their own home fell into disrepair. Their residence currently has severe roof leakage and electrical problems, she said, flaws not easily fixed given the Watsons' childcare costs.
"Their house is literally crumbling," Reeve said. "This is a gift from the grace of God. It's going to totally change their lives."
One of the reasons the Watsons were selected for a new start, Verschoor said, is the fact that their current house features space for two mothers from The Restoration House's program. He said his volunteers hope to expand the amount of space for all the families involved while making them more comfortable overall. Walking into the Watson's home for the makeover, he said he found a plaque that represents the family's Christian faith, its place in the universe and where it's heading next.
"The Watsons have a plaque above their door that says 'faith will see us through.'" Verschoor said. "We want to highlight that spirit in their new home. That faith is going to see them through to bigger and better things as they help more people in their community."