Chapter One: The Tape
Ty walked to the front of the bus where the rest of the team was seated and started the introduction of the project. "Hey guys!" They all smiled and greeted him. "So we're here in Olympia, Washington, to help out the Steinbrecher family." He held up the photo from the file, a picture jammed with six kids, two parents, and a cross probably taller than the bus, with a background of a beautiful forest. "Now this family has a lot of love for their community, especially their church, but some things have happened to them recently that are beyond their control. Take a look at this tape and you'll see why we're here." He picked up the remote and punched one of the buttons as the rest of the team turned back to the screen.
The screen flickered on, showing the same image as the photo, but with all the family members waving. "Hi, we're the Steinbrecher family."
"I'm Diane, I'm the mom," smiled the woman in the back. She had short blonde hair and one hand rested on the shoulder of the little girl in front of her.
The man next to her spoke up. "I'm Chad, and I'm the dad." With a broad smile, he hugged his wife around the waist with one arm.
"I'm Luke, and I'm 23," said the tall teen on the other side of his mom. He had his hands behind his back and the beginnings of a beard.
The girl with the pale skin spoke next. "I'm Sierra, I'm 21." She'd sat in the grass in the front row with a little girl on either side of her.
Another of the girls in the back waved again. "I'm Tori, I'm 18." She had an arm resting across her brother's shoulders and wavy blonde hair.
The last of the teens spoke up from beside her dad. "I'm Kira and I'm 16." Paul blinked. She looked so much like Tori, he'd thought they were twins.
Then the slightly taller of the two little girls cocked out one hip. "I'm Moriah, and I'm 10."
Finally, the pint-sized blonde cutie on the other side of her big sister smiled even wider. "I'm Natania, and I'm 8."
Michael went a little slack-jawed. "That's a lot of girls in that family." The others started to laugh.
"Welcome to our house." The family said altogether. Then the shot panned over and Paul felt his stomach drop out. A once very beautiful house, he was sure, was crumbling from the top down, with two jagged lines of black running almost down to the foundations. What looked like a deck had completely collapsed and the garage plus much of the right side of the house had been left in splinters by something huge. The left side of the upper story was somewhat intact, but the right side was completely gone.
The shot changed again, with the family's mom up close to the camera like she was holding it, with the right side of the house in the back. "We had a very bad storm last winter, and it blew down two huge Douglas fir trees that just came through the walls. Most of the right side of the house is gone, including the girls' bedrooms, and the game room." Tracy worried at her bottom lip and thought of the five girls in the opening, all suddenly without bedrooms.
The shot changed again. This time, the dad had the camera, in front of the left side of the house. "This tree came down and took out the master suite and into the kids' bathroom. Thankfully it didn't get to the living room, but we can't let the kids stay in there because it isn't safe. The only rooms we can really use are the foyer, the kitchen, and the downstairs bathroom."
As the video shifted through pictures of the family, having fun outdoors and inside their house, Ty explained. "Now a tree falling down is a pretty big deal, but the Steinbrechers have an even bigger problem. The dad is an accountant for construction companies, and the last company he worked for went bankrupt, with a huge debt to pay in taxes. As the accountant, Chad has to pay off that tax debt, which is well over a million dollars, without a job. So the family moved to Washington State, in this house, that their grandmother bought for them so they'd have a place to live."
The screen cut out of a photo of a soccer game between the second oldest and third oldest girls, and the two little ones and their brother, to an interview with the parents sitting on the steps to the front door. Preston noticed belatedly that it was a very nice door. "We'd just finished the payments on the house in October, and then the next month, the storm hit. When we all came home, the house was like this." Chad put an arm around his wife and continued. "We spent so long trying to pay off this house and live simply while taking care of our kids, but now we don't know what to do except pray."
A picture of the family dressed up for Halloween popped up on the screen as Ty continued to explain. "Now the family has insurance on the house, so they did have a construction company come in and remove the trees and fix up some of the damage to the first story, but since the house is now technically livable, they won't fix any more of it. So the family has a kitchen, but no place to sleep."
The film changed again and showed the altar of a church, with a priest standing in front of it. "The Steinbrechers are such a part of our community here. Chad and Diane have really brought some great things to this parish and the kids are really active as well. It hurts a lot of people here to see them without a place to call home, especially since they've invited so many of us into that home." Constance looked back at Ty, slightly confused.
"The family uses their house as a base for a lot of the ministries they do at the parish like the youth groups and bible studies, as well as a place for the mom to homeschool all the daughters," Ty detailed. Constance had to smile at that, even though the knot in her throat wouldn't let her laugh. "They want to keep doing their ministries, on top of everything else, but they need a house to do it."
The video changed again from a picture of a church party to the oldest girl and Luke sitting at their kitchen table. "I was the one who came home first and found the house with the trees. My mom thought it was a joke, before I sent her the pictures," Sierra said.
Luke looked at the camera. "Now we don't have a lot of space, but we managed to save most of our stuff and the bathroom still works." He smiled. "We can do everything but sleep in here."
Pictures of the family playing sports in front of the barn popped up on the screen and Ty explained. "Since the kitchen and one of the bathrooms still work, the family has been using their camping gear to stay in their barn for the last few months, so they still get to stay together. Their community's also been helping out with meals and doing the laundry. Still, things could be better."
The video cut back to the family standing in front of the cross in their backyard, which suddenly seemed a lot more meaningful. "Please come visit us!" They all said together, waving at the camera.
"So I don't know about you guys, but I think we really need to give this family the home they deserve after that. What do you say?" Ty asked. His answer was a chorus of "Yeah," and "Totally". He grinned at his team, anticipating an exciting week. "Then let's do it!"
Before you ask, yes, this is based off my real family and real things that happened to us. Extreme Makeover Home Edition was one of the few TV shows us kids were allowed to watch with our parents and it holds a very special place in my heart. So when I returned to it as an adult with greater writing experience, I immediately wanted to take all those times I dreamed up my ideal room and actually put it into words. Enjoy this work that has taken up residence in my heart.