EXTREME HOMECOMING 2,000 PEOPLE WELCOME PENNGROVE FAMILY TO NEW $1.5 MILLION HOUSE
When 12-year-old Shelby Pope saw her brand new $1.5 million house Thursday,
her jaw dropped and she raised her white-gloved hands to her face.
''This is so ... Wow! I can't believe seven days ago my house was falling
apart,'' she said. ''I want to thank every single person who helped.''
The Penngrove 12-year-old and her family arrived in a limousine Thursday
afternoon to find a new house that was built after they were sent out of town
for a week by the ABC-TV program, ''Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.''
More than 2,000 people, some of them volunteers who worked on the project,
were crowded outside as they got a first look at the new house, complete with
a pool and even a wine cellar.
''I love everything,'' said Matt Pope, Shelby's father.
The Popes were selected after Shelby wrote a letter to the program's
producers, telling them about her sun poisoning, an allergic condition that
kept her cooped up in her bedroom much of the time.
The producers checked out the family, and saw that her father works for a
community health center and her mother, Caroline, teaches children with
Executive Producer Tom Forman described them as ''two very giving people in
helping professions and not making money hand over fist.''
''You are looking for people who don't just need it but deserve it,'' he
The Popes were sent to Washington, D.C., on vacation and, starting
Saturday, with the help of more than 100 area companies that donated workers
and materials, the ''Extreme Makeover'' show demolished their old house and
built, furnished and decorated a much larger home.
They also built a covered pool and rebuilt an old barn as a family room
with a wine cellar.
The house and all the new amenities were designed to help Shelby deal with
her light allergy -- from windows to indoor lighting, pool cover and
''This will give my daughter a chance to be a child,'' Caroline Pope said.
''I feel like we've won the lottery.''
In typical ''Extreme Makeover'' fashion, the Popes arrived home
To build the suspense, the producers had the family emerge from the limo in
front of a large bus that blocked their view of the house.
After half an hour of to-doing and one false start, Ty Pennington, the
program's host, yelled: ''Move this bus!'' and the house was revealed at last.
''The ABC team did a great job,'' Matt Pope said. ''And the community with
their outpouring of support, it shows what kind of a community we live in.
We're overwhelmed with the generosity.''
The extent of the work was ''way over the top of our expectations,'' Pope
After the unveiling, the family was swept inside to see the rest of the
house and to have their reactions filmed for the program. The producers said
the Popes' episode will run sometime this fall.
Among the many people who helped with the project was a group of about 40
Penngrove neighbors and friends of the Popes.
''We were feeling kind of left out and we went over to the crew and said
what can we do to help,'' Pam Wood said. ''They said, 'We're hungry.'''
So Wood and her friends organized a series of late night and early morning
meals and did whatever else they could to help.
Colin Davidson, 14, was there with his friends, Michael Fishman, 14, and
Andrew Fishman, 17. They cleaned windows, picked up trash and helped move
Although the project generated an outpouring of support, it hasn't been
without its critics.
One individual who lives in the neighborhood complained that the show
turned the road in front of her house into a noisy freeway, attracting dozens
of people who wanted to watch the construction project.
Another person complained that the county's expediting of the Pope's
construction work was illegal.
And others wondered whether the Popes will have to pay federal income taxes
on the value of the improvements to their property and whether they would be
able to pay higher property taxes.
The production company said it helps ''Extreme Makeover'' homeowners to
legally avoid counting the work as a taxable gift under federal income tax
laws by leasing their properties and then declaring the value of the
improvements as rent.
When properties are leased for less than 14 days, no federal tax is due on
the rent, said David Goldberg, one of the program's producers.
Bill Rousseau, Sonoma County's chief deputy assessor, said the Popes'
property, which had a pre-makeover assessed value of $285,766, will be
reassessed in the next couple of months and their property tax is likely to go
However, he said, improvements intended to provide accommodation for a
disability won't count toward the new assessed value. The new tax bill won't
be known until an assessor has completed an analysis of the property.
The project's general contractor estimated the home's value now at $1.5
If the Popes end up needing some extra cash, they should be able to
refinance their mortgage and obtain a significant amount of cash given the
value of the improvements that have been made, Forman said.
You can reach Staff Writer Jose L. Sanchez Jr. at 762-7297 or