For the past decade, Earnie Graham has devoted her life to bringing joy to Girl Scouts. For the past seven days, more than 100 organizations and hundreds more volunteers devoted their time to turning her life on its head.
When she viewed the new two-story home that replaced her incomplete, unheated, termite-infested home for the first time Wednesday afternoon, she fell into her children's arms and erupted in tears.
"I couldn't hear very well, but I could see her reaction and her tears of joy," said volunteer Theresa Von Plinsky.
Although Von Plinsky said her only skills were being an "unskilled mom," she knew she wanted to be a part of the magic she witnesses on the ABC television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition every week.
Chip Parkinson admitted to tearing up when he saw the look on the family's face.
The truck driver, who lives in Jackson, took off work to help build the home. Despite the below-normal temperatures, he slept in his vehicle at the construction site Tuesday night. After all, he said, the construction crews needed help and the 45-minute drive home just didn't seem worth it.
The last week has been exciting for the Graham family. On Dec. 2, they were told to pack their bags and head to Disneyland. When they arrived back in Augusta on Tuesday, Graham discovered she had a new vehicle, a 2011 Ford Explorer, and that a new cabin had been built at Camp Tanglewood in Martinez that would allow for handicapped Girl Scouts to take part in activities.
Hundreds of friends and supporters lined the streets Wednesday afternoon for the reveal, some waiting in the below-normal temperatures for eight hours.
When she arrived at her familiar lot at 161 McCain Way, she noticed little that was familar -- except for a few concrete blocks.
Five years ago, her father and brother started a two-story addition on her home. However, after her father got cancer and her brother died, the concrete structure was left unfinished.
Although construction crews chose to bulldoze the old home, they opted to save the concrete blocks that were sentimental to the Graham family and integrate them into the construction, as a wall and planters surrounding the house.
Graham, her 22-year-old daughter, Tiffany, and her 10-year-old son, T.J., will officially spend their first night in the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home tonight.
Steven Beazley, the president of Bill Beazley Homes, said when Extreme Makeover approached his company in October about the project, he wasn't interested because his mother was ill at the time, and later died. It was after the death when the show re-approached him that he decided he needed to do it -- for his mother.
Now, there's not a doubt in his mind that it was the right decision.
"This is the greatest experience of my life," Beazley said after the completion of the project. "I could sell 1,000 houses or travel around the world, but it wouldn't compare to this."
It did get nerve-racking at times, such as when the hardwood flooring delivery was delayed by 12 hours because the delivery truck broke down.
"It's really tiring," Beazley said. "Everything is on a time limit so you never get a break."
Graham's neighbors also got a helping hand. Many received new mailboxes and roofs. Graham's sister-in-law, Monica, whose husband helped start the addition five years ago, received new siding, a roof and a new porch -- and will get cabinets for her home.
Beazley said he plans to revisit the Graham home with Christmas decorations.
Originally, he asked that the home be fully decorated but was told that because the show won't air until February, decorations just didn't fit.
Graham has been offered a scholarship by the University of Phoenix, where she is enrolled, to complete her bachelor's degree and receive a graduate degree of her choice.
Both of her children have also been offered full scholarships at Paine College.
The mortgage company, which cannot be named, has also agreed to pay off her mortgage.