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Published October 07 2010

INFORUM FEATURE: Volunteers sacrifice sleep, personal lives to help build "Extreme Makeover" home in Moorhead

MOORHEAD - Corey Reed knows the value of volunteers.

When a June 17 tornado destroyed half his home in Wadena, Minn., volunteers helped him clean up.

Reed is still dealing with the twister’s aftermath, living in a rented house as the bills roll in.

But he wasn’t complaining early this morning as he waited two hours to deliver 400 sheets of dry-wall at 4 a.m. to the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” house being built in Moorhead for the Bill and Adair Grommesh family.

“I had a lot of people help me,” he said.

Reed volunteered for the job through his employer, Drywall Supply Inc. of Moorhead.

“I like helping other people anyways,” he said. “Try to help the next guy out.”

No rest for the wicked? Not here. It’s the noble who are sacrificing sleep and putting their personal lives aside for a good cause.

From contractors to college students, volunteers kept at it throughout the overnight hours, completing the framing, insulation, HVAC, electrical, plumbing and elevator shaft in the two-story house at 803 22nd Ave. S.

Crews started hanging drywall and putting on the siding a few hours before sunrise Thursday.

North Dakota State University senior Cate Eke-gren was working her second straight night shift. The president of NDSU’s Habitat for Humanity chapter said, “I figure this is kind of my cup of tea.”

But the 20-year-old needed more than tea to keep her awake during the past two days.

She worked the 1 to 8 a.m. shift on Wednesday, doing sweeping and other cleanup work inside the home. An hour later, she was at her job at the NDSU Alumni Center, then off to class at 10 a.m. She worked again at 2 p.m. at the student activities office, then pulled a shift at the school newspaper, The Spectrum, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. before returning to the job site at 2 a.m. Thursday.

Ekegren said she slept “like an hour while I was doing homework. But I’ve had enough energy drinks to keep me going for a while, and just the sheer energy and adrenaline from being able to participate in this.”

Nancy Richards, a stay-at-home mom from Moorhead, said the overnight shift was her first chance to volunteer since building began Monday.

“I’m a mom of five kids, and it was easy when they were all in bed,” she said.

Richards and her family attend the same church as the Grommeshes, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Moorhead, and she said she’s glad the family was chosen by Extreme Makeover. Her daughter went to school with 10-year-old Garrett Grommesh, who has spina bifida and will benefit from the more wheelchair-friendly home.

“They’re very deserving of it,” she said. “It’s very nice. They’re great people.”

Richards planned to do whatever was asked of her until 8 a.m., then go home and send the kids to school.

And after that?

“Crash,” she said.

Volunteer coordinator Chris Feickert of PRG Home Sales has flipped her normal schedule, sleeping from 2 to 9 p.m. and directing human traffic at the job site from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. She was surprisingly chipper this morning, considering someone had to tell her what day it was.

“That 100-cup pot of coffee? Mine,” she said.

A handful of spectators watched the overnight volunteers, including three people who know the importance of being on time – UPS employees Ed Schoenherr of Fremont, Neb., Brian Sykora of Sioux Falls, S.D., and Casey Mit-tag of Moorhead.

Schoenherr and Sykora drove to Fargo-Moorhead during the day Wednesday, worked their evening shift until midnight and met Mittag at the job site.

“We thought it’d be a neat thing to see, and it’s been by far well worth it – but I’m looking for Ty,” Schoenherr said, referring to the ABC show’s designer star, Ty Pennington.

Mittag lives near the site and was there Wednesday morning before crews had erected and shingled the roof. By 1:30 a.m., workers were fastening the metal soffit onto the roof’s overhang, troweling the cement for the garage floor and installing insulation.

“It’s been interesting to watch it progress,” Mittag said.

“It is amazing,” Schoenherr added.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528