Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Extreme Generosity: Barn Edition

It’s not every day that a builder gets a call from a major television network. So when the producers of the hit ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” called Brian Keane of the National Barn Company in Fort Gibson, Okla., he knew it was for a worthy cause.

 “I’d seen the show, so I knew they do a lot of good things for people who truly need assistance,” says Keane, who is president of his company’s Central Division.

The worthy cause was the family of Chris and Niki Hampton. Already parents of two children, in March 2007 the couple received a call from the local social services agency. Would they take guardianship of their four nieces and nephews? Though the Hamptons were given only an hour to decide, the two did not hesitate to say yes. The alternative was to separate the children and place them in foster homes.

But the new arrangement instantly doubled the size of the Hampton family — from four members to eight. Suddenly their 792-square-foot, one-bedroom farmhouse in Ash Grove, Mo., seemed to grow a lot smaller. The dining room and a utility closet were turned into bedrooms as bunk beds were set up for the three boys and three girls. Four dozen plastic tubs were stacked floor-to-ceiling in order to hold all the clothes and belongings.

Like their home, the Hamptons’ barn was also inadequate for their needs. As president of the Missouri Family Rodeo Association, Chris takes a leading role in rescuing abused horses. Keane explains, “The barn was built in the 1950s. It was falling down and was structurally unsound with lots of termite damage.”

So the producers of “Extreme Makeover,” who received some 15 nominations on behalf of the Hamptons, decided to demolish the barn, as well as the home, and replace both.

Show host Ty Pennington arrived July 14 on the Hamptons’ doorstep and surprised them with the good news.

The family — including Chris, Niki, Dakota, Hannah, Gage, Kira, Lexi and Jacob — was whisked away to Florida for a week-long Disney World vacation. Meanwhile, work crews and volunteers gathered at the Ash Grove property the next day to dynamite the house and barn and begin the new construction. Altogether, they had seven days to complete the project before the Hamptons returned.

Before that could happen, though, Keane and the other builders involved in the project had a lot of advance work to do. For his part, Keane and his National Barn Company team designed a fully-insulated 36 x 48 x 12 barn to house six horses.

Features would include six 12 x 12 stalls with Dutch doors, a 12 x 12 tack room and 12 x 12 feed room, two 6 x 48 porches, a 12 x 11 split siding door with crossbucks, and two 3 x 3 cupolas.

The stalls would be equipped with swing-out feeders, plus drop-down panels in the stall doors and post protectors on the main support posts. Storage would be provided above the tack and feed rooms. And fittingly, the new facility would be topped by horse weathervanes.

The Clock Keeps Ticking

But since Keane was contacted only 10 days before the project had to be completed, he needed to secure the support of his suppliers — and quickly.

“I got in touch with several suppliers,” he reports, “and asked who could participate by donating enough products to make sure we could handle the project.”

One of those suppliers, national sales and marketing manager Fred Mancusi of the Plyco Corporation in Elkhart Lake, Wis., says his company welcomed the challenge “so that we could all help a needy family. At a time when the national economy is hurting, it gave us a real sense of pride to know we were stepping up to help as much as we could.”

A manufacturer and supplier for the post-frame, metal building and commercial construction industries, Plyco donated the walk doors, Dutch doors, windows and cupolas.

Keane contacted Ken McDonnell, president of Post Protector in Pottsville, Pa., who was touched that “National Barn Company stood up and accepted the challenge.”

For that reason, he too “wanted to do what I could to lighten the load. You can’t help but be moved by people who devote their time and energy in a massive movement to help people in need.” As a result, Post Protector provided all the posts used in the barn construction.

“We knew it was a good cause,” adds Rob Kujawa, business development manager for Central States Manufacturing in Lowell, Ark. “But we also agreed to help because National Barn Company is one of our good customers and we wanted to support them.”

In fact, this was the second “Extreme Makeover” project in which Central States has participated. This time around the company donated the metal panels, trim and accessories.

Kujawa was so enthusiastic about the project, he says, that “I went with Brian [Keane] to help him build it. Even though my part was small, it was nice to be a part of the experience. And it strengthened our relationship with Brian and his crews.”

Owner Rocky Gilreath of Rockin J Horse Stalls in Mannford, Okla., also relates how “the experience helped us get to know National Barn Company better. Working together, one-on-one, has changed our relationship. Now we’re more than just a vendor and customer.”

Gilreath delivered stall fronts directly to the jobsite. “It was a good cause and we felt good doing it,” he continues. “The people at National Barn Company are upstanding, while the show speaks for itself. So I didn’t hesitate to take part.”

Having watched “Extreme Makeover” himself, owner Rick Kennedy of Martin Building Products in Carthage, Mo., knew the show “does really good things for good people.”

A distributor of reflective insulation for the metal building and roofing industries, Martin serves customers across the Midwest and Southwest. Agreeing to provide insulation for the Hampton project, Kennedy says, “was the right thing to do. It’s given us all a sense of pride to take a part in helping out where we could.”

Trusses for the Hampton barn were furnished by Craco Truss Post Frame Supply LLC of Park Hill, Okla. The family-owned company also sells floor trusses, post-frame barn kits, windows, metal siding and roofing.

“Even though it was the peak of our season,” relates general manager Steven Crawford, “our employees worked overtime to build the trusses because we all agreed with the mission. Anytime you can help, it’s a good feeling in return.”

Barn specialist Kelly Crawford, who was called in to assist the project, concurs with all the suppliers: “When times are tough and money is tight, it’s still important to think of others first. When you help someone, it comes back to you two-fold.”

A Real Team Effort

Suppliers not only donated materials but often pitched in by arranging deliveries direct from the factory to the job site. And many National Barn customers did their part by agreeing to delay their own construction projects so the Hamptons’ makeover could be finished on schedule.

Nevertheless, no construction project goes completely as planned. For one thing, Keane encountered a last-minute design change.

“The Extreme Makeover people wanted to attach a greenhouse at the end of building,” he relates, “but since another company was in charge of constructing the greenhouse, it was a challenge to work around — especially since our part of the construction started on a Thursday and we had just five days to complete it.”

Soon after Keane’s crews began their work, he continues, “We encountered a lot of hard digging, so that it took an entire day just to get the posts in.” The company was already trying to complete in five days what could normally take weeks to finish. Fifteen National Barn employees — all volunteers — worked around the clock, together with people from the surrounding community, in July heat and in pouring rain.

National Barn crews from Oklahoma and Tennessee participated, as did president Sam Lamberth of the company’s Eastern Division.

“You never know what kind of reaction you’ll get when you ask employees to volunteer their time,” Keane says, “but everyone really put their heart into it. We all feel blessed by the experience and thankful we got this opportunity.” RB

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