Archive for Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Family gets surprise morale booster

As hard times hit, home receives a ‘mini makeover’

Kevin and Jennifer Stewart, and their children, Emersen, 3, and Cameron, 6, were surprised with a home makeover provided by friends, family and others during the weekend. BELOW: Cory Berkland and Brenda Jackson replace the sliding patio door after repairing the lock. Both were part of a large work crew doing the makeover for the Stewarts.

Kevin and Jennifer Stewart, and their children, Emersen, 3, and Cameron, 6, were surprised with a home makeover provided by friends, family and others during the weekend. BELOW: Cory Berkland and Brenda Jackson replace the sliding patio door after repairing the lock. Both were part of a large work crew doing the makeover for the Stewarts.

June 16, 2009

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Neighbors makeover Lawrence resident's home

Friends and neighbors of one Lawrence resident gave the gift of a total home makeover. Enlarge video

Emersen Stewart, 3, and her father walk in the backyard of their Lawrence home where the family was surprised with a home makeover provided by friends and family over the weekend. The make-over included painting and flower-bed plantings, an outdoor play set with swings and a patio shelter.

Emersen Stewart, 3, and her father walk in the backyard of their Lawrence home where the family was surprised with a home makeover provided by friends and family over the weekend. The make-over included painting and flower-bed plantings, an outdoor play set with swings and a patio shelter.

When Jennifer and Kevin Stewart pulled into their southeast Lawrence driveway Sunday evening, they thought they were getting a visit from ABC’s “Extreme Makeover.”

A band was playing in their front yard, where about 60 people stood. And there was a sign: “Welcome to the Stewarts Mini Home Make Over.”

As it turned out, it was friends and family who had spent the weekend sprucing up their house, not “Extreme Makeover’s” Ty Pennington.

“I am still speechless,” Jennifer said.

For the past year, Lawrence residents from more than a half-dozen organizations had been secretly planning to help fix the Stewarts’ home.

Kevin recently lost his job and the family has been hit with medical bills after their son, 6-year-old Cameron, was diagnosed with autism. With other expenses, keeping up the home had been low on the priority list.

“This is a family that just doesn’t think about their own needs. They think about other people’s needs, and it is just so fun to give back and do something for them,” said Brenda Jackson, who was among those who helped organize the makeover.

Known as Operation Blessing, the project entailed convincing Jennifer that she had won a free makeover consultation. That way, the volunteers would know what changes she wanted to make to the house.

Before this weekend, local groups had pitched in to build a fence around the backyard, plant a friendship garden and paint the outside of the home.

Up until Sunday evening, the Stewarts had believed all the help had been coincidences.

“We just thought, you know, this is a gift from God,” Jennifer said. “These were things that weren’t even on our radar.”

This weekend the undercover operation moved into high gear, when Jennifer and Kevin attended an autism conference in Oklahoma City. Help came from Lawrence Free Methodist Church, Lawrence Wesleyan Church, Mothers of Preschoolers, Lawrence Autism Society, private businesses and neighbors.

Dozens of people set to work laying carpet, painting walls, replacing screen doors, installing new appliances, fixing furniture, hanging curtains and building a new play set for the couple’s two children.

And, in true “Extreme Makeover” fashion, the team stayed up until 1 a.m. painting and made sure there was a party when the Stewarts arrived home.

Jennifer said the makeover was far greater than she could have imagined.

“I’m sorry, ABC, but this is better than ‘Extreme Makeover,’” she said. “This topped it. It just topped it.”

Comments

overthemoon 6 years ago

This is great! I think Extreme Makeover is pretty ridiculous...over done design and so expensive that many of the happy recipients can't afford the taxes and maintenance on their over the top homes. Projects like this are within the range of a caring community.

Sharon Aikins 6 years ago

How wonderful that so many people will give selflessly of themselves to help this family! The Stewarts can relax and enjoy their lovely "new" home and those who helped can feel good knowing they did something so caring. In today's world, we are often so involved in our own hardships that we don't see those of others. Maybe this will be the first of many such makeovers in Lawrence! WTG!

Cindy Flippo 6 years ago

What a heart warming story when things in life seem so difficult with the hard times that have hit so many. God Bless all that made this happen.

coolmom 6 years ago

lawrence does have many stories like this every day we just dont get to hear all the stories. many people donate their time and energy in many heartwarming ways you just have to look around. maybe by searching you could find a nitch to donate? you can find this all over our country and our world.

Jennifer Alexander 6 years ago

Does the LJW have any before and after pictures?

Leslie Swearingen 6 years ago

Until you have been there you don't know how wonderful it is to have something no one else has ever used. If you have a pleasant home to retreat to, it makes the outside world more bearable. I bet those kids are going to totally love their new back yard.

dandelion 6 years ago

totalDbag (Anonymous) says… Operation Blessing? More like Operation Welfare or Operation Communism. And autism is and overdiagnosed catch-all diagnosis anyway

Just because you don't have any family or friends who would do this for you if you were suffering, doesn't mean you have to be jealous. You must be a mean, nasty, sad person. And you are clueless about autism. Children with autism are very high maintenance. I'm glad you are only blessed with good health, healthy children, and a good job. I hope nothing bad ever happens to you, because I doubt if anyone would be there for you, since you consider helping people to be a bad thing. What goes around comes around.

mom_of_three 6 years ago

I really hate it when they remove the comment totally and we don't know if it has been removed. It makes postings like the one above a little confusing.

dandelion 6 years ago

Actually, I unfortunately quoted the bad comment in my reply. You can delete my comment too, so this hateful person's thoughts are gone.

Leslie Swearingen 6 years ago

Though I do not agree with totalDbag's remarks, I do not think they should have been removed. He was simply giving his opinion. And, there are those who do think autism is too quickly diagnosed and kids over drugged as a result.

sandersen 6 years ago

I have a son on the autistic spectrum. He is not on, never has been on, nor ever will be on meds. Receiving this diagnosis for my little boy was neither easy nor quick. This has been one of the most challenging experiences my family has ever encountered. I wish the very best for this family, and hope that may find all the direction they need to advocate for their son, and for their family.

I am proud to be part of a community that comes together to help one another. If this is "welfare" or "communism", the pioneers that colonized this land, indeed, our very forefathers must have been filthy commies, as helping one another through barn-building, rebuilding after war and disaster, and in general assisting one another in their communities was a standard practice.

Since when did being a decent human being become a slight, a disease, a sin worthy of such hatred? I would much prefer to be the human being who errs on the side of attempting to help one another.

Our country was built on this principle.

Leslie Swearingen 6 years ago

sandersen, I agree with you. I have so much on this subject from "experts", on one side and then another, that I really don't know what to think about the subject. The media could be more responsible by getting us accurate information from respected specialist on the subject. I believe that your son can lead a full, happy life, and one path to that is being around those who are caring and sharing and accepting. Please forgive me if I wrote something that was rude to you or to your child.

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