November 8, 2007

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Publisher's Note: An extreme gift
By†Jody Reese

Itís called Extreme Makeover for a reason.

Last month Manchester found that out first-hand when Ty Pennington of ABCís Extreme Makeover: Home Edition showed up and led more than 1,000 volunteers in building a new home for the Voisine family. It was quite spectacular, as was the outpouring of charity for the family. Businesses donated furniture, restaurant gift certificates, cars, a college fund and all sorts of household items. In the end, itís estimated that between the house and all the donations more than $1 million was raised.

The extreme gift bestowed on one family has created a small controversy in the community with some complaining that it all is just too much, especially when there is so much other need in the community.

The whole point of the show is to be over the top. Being chosen is like winning the lottery. Itís not about covering the basics, itís about excess (why else call it extreme?). The community doesnít get upset when someone wins the lottery and buys a million-dollar house. So what about this gift has some people grumbling?

I tend to think one of the things that bothered people is that some of the giving to the family (not the volunteer part) was more marketing than giving. The producers of Extreme Makeover werenít shy about demanding donations and in exchange they offered a few seconds of national television exposure or lesser gifts to be part of a national television show. Many donors who gave less than $50,000 in value to the show were allowed to hang their banner in a tent on the building site. That made some of it more about getting credit than giving to the family.

The other issue seemed to center around the large amount of giving for one family as opposed to spreading it over many needly families. The same question was asked after Katrina when billions of dollar went to the Red Cross. The giving then was so great that the Red Cross diverted some of the money to other disasters. Similar concerns were raised after 9/11 when people gave extraordinarily to funds set up to help victimsí families.

Itís as if turning those television cameras turned on peopleís giving. Clearly the Voisine family needed help as did (and do) the victims of Katrina and 9/11.

The lesson here might be that it takes an extreme effort to get the community mobilized to help. And, in the end, is that what irks people? Why did it take outsiders from a national television show to show all of us the Voisine family needed some help?

The lesson here might be that people give when they can be part of something bigger then themselves, like a national television show or national disaster, and businesses will give when they get exposure out of it. Then the question becomes, how does that makes us feel about our community?


11/1/2007 Odd state out