Coming home to an 'Extreme Makeover'
Television show rebuilds house for West Lanham Hills family
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Nikema and Tamara Tripp are used to driving all over Prince George's County in a vehicle they call the "Big Blue Bus," picking up children and taking them to Sunday school.
Saturday they were rewarded for their good works in the form of a newly rebuilt home, courtesy of the ABC-TV show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
The show's host, Ty Pennington, was onsite as the program unveiled the new home in West Lanham Hills to Nikema Tripp, 31, Tamara Tripp, 30, and their children, Micah, 5, Ethan, 3 and 9-month-old Aaden.
Washington D.C.-area contractors rebuilt the Tripps' house —which had been crumbling under poor plumbing and insulation — in six days, working round-the-clock in 12-hour shifts.
"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" travels across the nation to build new homes for families whose members are active in community outreach or military service and are too financially strapped to afford a new home or necessary repairs. The rebuilding of the Tripps' house was an all-volunteer job completed with donated materials. The Vienna, Va.-based G & M Contracting oversaw the rebuilding.
The program shows the progress of the rebuilding project and highlights the story of a family that has served its community. The program's producers chose the Tripps because of the family's commitment to driving children to and from Bowie's Woodlawn Baptist Church's Sunday school classes at DuVal High School and for acting as daily mentors to children in their neighborhood, said "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" producer Diane Korman in an e-mail to The Gazette.
"They have selfishly given after school mentoring, tutoring and guidance to hundreds of inner-city youth and sacrificed their own home to provide a place for up to 40 children to come each day for a hot meal and a chance to realize their dreams," Korman said.
While the construction was ongoing, the family traveled on an all-expenses-paid vacation to Disney World, courtesy of the show. Officials have not yet set a date and time for the airing of the segment featuring the Tripps, Korman said.
Workers demolished the Tripps' two-bedroom, one-bathroom, 900-square-foot house on Aug. 23 and by Aug. 29 had rebuilt it into a 2,900-square-foot home featuring three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and a basement game room.
The Tripps submitted an application tape to the program more than a year ago after Tamara Tripp heard a radio announcement that the show was coming to the Washington metropolitan area.
The bus ministry was begun by Nikema Tripp's father, Jerry Tripp, 61, who passed the reins to his son in 2006.
During the bus rides, Tamara Tripp plays games with the children and gives them prizes for remembering Bible verses while driver Fred Sewer takes them to and from class. Nikema Tripp teaches a Sunday school class for teens at the Sunday school at DuVal High, where the church youth ministries were moved to because of a lack of room in the main Bowie church.
Nikema Tripp is an electrician and Tamara Tripp is a former teacher's aide who now home schools Micah.
Neighborhood children come to the house daily to spend time with the Tripp family, Nikema said, adding that they hope their new home will continue to be a haven for children.
Tamara said Tuesday that she is grateful to God that the program chose her family's house to rebuild.
"When you pray about something He hears you and in His own timing He'll give it to you," Tamara Tripp said. "We just gave glory to Him and we were so excited."
Sean Murphy, the president of G&M Contracting, said his company had four weeks to plan the rebuilding project, which included gathering volunteers. He estimated that the donated materials were worth about $200,000.
"This is an exciting thing — a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a house ... and just be part of something huge," Murphy said, explaining why he took part in the effort. He added that the family's former home was "falling apart" due to poor insulation and water in the crawlspace that formed mold.
Nearby residents stopped by to witness the construction.
Residents were given visitor parking passes for portions of the neighborhood that were near the building scene, said West Lanham Hills resident Kim Chilcoat, 33, whose children, Eric Rawls, 15, and Damien Tucker, 7, regularly ride the "Big Blue Bus" to Sunday school.
"It's a good community, good people," Chilcoat said Aug. 27. "Everybody out here is united and looks out for each other."