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Posted: 12/27/06

GOODNESS GRACIOUS. Maryann Gilliam gasped "Oh my goodness" as she and her family returned to their new home Monday, Aug. 14. Pictured above, from left to right, is Maryann holding one of her sons, the rest of her children, two crew members from ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and an unidentified woman.

(Observer file photo)

Extreme home makeover
given to Armada family

Observer Staff Writer
      A family struck by tragedy was given an extreme new home in August of 2006.
       The death of firefighter David Gilliam left his wife, Maryann, and their six children with an uncompleted, two-bedroom home on Christmas Eve of 2005.
       His death, according to the family's doctor, was caused by a toxic spore from a mold infestation, found in the home's basement, causing the remaining Armada family to move out and lose their home for health concerns.
       But all that changed when ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition came to Armada on Aug. 7, making the family's dream home into a reality.
       The producers sent the family on vacation to a resort in Florida, while a troop of blue shirt-wearing volunteers stormed the home on Aug. 9 to begin construction with the home improvement show's stars.
       "It's been the big buzz," said resident Wendy Walkowski. "This is big ... it's putting Armada on the map."
       The home, located on Armada Center, had an estimated 3,000 workers, subcontractors, trades and volunteers working on it. American Heartland Homebuilder and Lombardo Homes was signed on as the builders of the project, along with other subcontractors.
       Fifth Third Bank even contributed, paying off the existing mortgage on the Gilliam family's property, along with other local branches donating to make sure the family was debt-free.
       By noon of the first day, the old home was completely demolished, and the new home was built within four days, changing it from a two-bedroom, 900-square foot home to an estimated 3,800-square foot home with seven bedrooms. The whole process took 53 hours, breaking previous records set on the show.
       "When we started building this house, it wasn't about breaking records, it was about pride," said Rick Merlini, CEO of American Heartland Homebuilder.
       Hundreds of members from around the community gathered outside on the final day of the program, eagerly awaiting the return of the Gilliam family, as well as a glimpse of the show's host and "team leader," Ty Pennington. Many had signs showing support and love for the family.
       "It's a great experience, waiting for the family," said New Haven resident Alana Merrifield. "And Ty."
       The episode aired later on in the fall season, on Oct. 1.
       Later, on Nov. 7, the family picked up their brand new 2007 Expedition from Romeo Ford, built with Maryann's specifications. The local dealership not only provided full warranty coverage, but also covered all expenses, from oil changes to tire services for the next two years.
       "Every time she needs something repaired, we'll pick it up, drop off another vehicle, repair it, wash it, and bring it back to her," said Ron Hudson, Customer Relations Manager of Romeo Ford.

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