WEST UNION, Iowa --- Early Sunday, Audrey Gibbs and her six children awoke to what would be the last day in their home as they knew it.
"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" host Ty Pennington and his design crew sounded an air horn in front of the Gibbs' home north of West Union on Iowa Highway 150, signifying they were the winners of a new home.
"It's all been overwhelming since they said ‘Good morning,'" Audrey Gibbs said.
Film crews began recording while hundreds of volunteers lined up for the first day of the week-long project.
Larson Construction Co. of Independence and thousands of volunteers will work around the clock to construct the new home with amenities needed by the family.
Gibbs lost her husband to cancer in August 2000, and seven months later developed a brain aneurism.
A quarter of Gibbs' brain was affected, leaving her legally blind.
"I chose to go blind because, with going to the doctors, and with the financing of that, I chose to go blind, and be back here with the kids more. That way we could maybe afford some things to get through life, like heating," she said.
The family moved into the farmhouse and rented portions of property to local farmers. Her diagnosis meant the loss of her career as a cosmetologist, so she began massage therapy classes, something she could continue without eyesight.
Daily obstacles became greater as their home showed drastic signs of wear - no working toilet and a caving ceiling. Living space was condensed with only three bedrooms.
"I just want to say thanks to the community. It's great. I was overwhelmed by how much people are here, how much support there has been. It's been a long many 10, 11 years. It's great to see everything," Audrey Gibbs said.
Leann Popenhagen, a longtime friend of the family, chose to put her construction experience to use and spend the week volunteering.
"They were kind of like a second family for a long time. They stayed with us when Audrey was in the hospital...I've just been kind of like their surrogate mom in a way, and they're just great kids," she said.
Nathan Gibbs, 19, is looking forward to "seeing his mom with less stress and a better living arrangement for the younger siblings."
"I'd like to thank the community for stepping up and coming out here today. That meant a lot to us. And seeing a couple people I looked up to quite a bit with my dad passing away, it means a lot to me that they could show up today and be here," he said.
The family prepared for a vacation at Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida while crews set up tents and mobilized machinery.
Ed Larson, and his wife Janet, of Larson Construction Co. are pleased to be a part of the project.
"If you know the story and what they've had to struggle with the last 10 years, Audrey is a very remarkable lady for what she's done to raise her six kids," Ed Larson said.
General volunteers are still needed for 2-to-8 a.m. shifts. Visit www.joinextreme.com/iowa for more information on how to volunteer time and/or resources.
WEST UNION, Iowa --- Television personality Ty Pennington and his "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" crew arrived in rural West Union this morning to surprise a widow of six that she was getting a new home.
The door knock came to the home of Audrey Gibbs, a widowed farm owner who is raising six children despite having serious health concerns, including being declared legally blind.
The Gibbs family will be the recipients of a new home by the home makeover television show. The EM:HE design team has seven days to build a new home for the Gibbs family.
Hundreds of local volunteers are being enlisted to help the Larson Construction Co. of Independence.
On Sunday morning, the family was whisked away on a vacation to Boca Raton Resort & Club, while Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team leader Ty Pennington, designers Paul DiMeo, Tracy Hutson, Sabrina Soto, Jeff Dye and Larson Construction get to work on the new home.
According to Extreme Makeover officials, Audrey's husband died in 2000. Seven months later, she had a brain aneurism that affected a quarter of her brain and left her legally blind. Audrey had surgery in 2001.
The illness forced her to leave her job as a cosmetologist. She then took massage therapy classes.
Show officials said the Gibbs family owns and lives on a farm, in which they rent portions to local farmers for additional income. "Their farmhouse is in need of significant repair with no working toilet, a ceiling that is caving in and a layout that does not work for the family -- especially Audrey if she completely loses her eyesight," according to a press release from show officials.
The Gibbs children range in age from 13 to 20 with the oldest in college.
Courier staff on the scene Sunday said the white farmhouse appears older and rundown. It has a one-car garage. Highway 150 north of West Union, where the home is located, is blocked off, and traffic is being rerouted.
Today, the TV crew was doing some filming of the home. It is slated for demolition at 10 a.m. Monday.
Spectators will not be allowed at the site, which is just north of West Union, until Tuesday morning. Spectators can park at the Fayette County Fairgrounds, 100 W. Franklin St., entrance, and will then be shuttled to the build site.
All spectators are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Spectators also should plan for lengthy periods of standing.
There is also a raffle being held in conjunction with the makeover. Tickets are $5 each or five for $20. Prizes include an exclusive tour of the Extreme Makeover home, autographed hardhat by Ty Pennington and the design crew and autographed T-shirts by Ty and the design crew.
The drawing will be held Saturday; you need not be present to win. Contact Janelle Darst at firstname.lastname@example.org or (319) 273-3676, to purchae tickets.
Funds raised will go toward the Family/Build Fund to help pay for items for the family home, medical bills and other expenses.
The Emmy-award winning reality show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, now in its ninth season, is produced by Endemol USA, a division of Endomol Holding. The show airs Sundays from 7 to 8 p.m. on ABC.