By Ernie Straub, President at Straub Construction talking about an Extreme Home Makeover project for the Schwab Family.
Have you ever been in a spot where you really needed something good to happen to you? Last March, I came across an opportunity to bless another family, but it turned out to be a bigger blessing to me.
Susan and I were dropping off my famous brisket, smoked cheesy potatoes, and smoked green bean casserole dinner to some family friends of ours, Scott and Michele Schwab. Perhaps you’ve heard of their heartbreaking story of their ten-year-old son Caleb’s tragic accident in August of 2016.
Just over six months after the tragedy, the family was trying put their lives back together. The strength of their faith and support of their community was inspiring, but I wanted to do more. We brought a meal over, hoping to bring a little bit of comfort, and I could feel the warmth of the family as they welcomed us into their home.
Reminders of Caleb were everywhere in the home, his joyful smile showing on the family photos that hung on their wall—the same ones we’d received in Christmas cards from them in previous years.
Leaving the house I saw that their front porch sidewalk was in bad condition, and I offhandedly mentioned we’d be happy to help with the repairs.
A couple weeks later, Scott called and said that my comment had gotten him thinking. More than just the sidewalk, they were wanting to do some major renovations throughout their house.
An “Extreme” Idea Forms
The next day, I went back to walk through Scott and Michele’s home and discuss their renovation dreams. They were looking to completely redo the kitchen, laundry, master bathroom, and half bath, as well as updating some features like the ceiling texture, carpet, staircase railing, and outdoor fencing.
These changes would require major demolition throughout most of the house—almost like that TV show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I told them it would be much easier to just buy a lot and start a new home from scratch. Trying to live in the midst of major renovations like that was stressful.
But it quickly became clear that they wanted to stay in the home they’d raised their four boys. They helped me realize how important it was for them to stay close to the daily reminders of the son they lost.
Once I realized that, I became 100% committed to making their plans happen. Driving home, an idea sparked. After all this family had been through, being able to get their home the way they wanted as quickly as possible would be a huge blessing. They had mentioned they were going on a family vacation in three weeks. What if they came home to all the renovations being completely done? What if we actually did an Extreme Makeover for them?
Getting the Ball Rolling
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever done a complete renovation of a home, but the process typically takes months. We had to hit the ground running the very next day to make this dream come true.
Scott was extremely busy in Topeka spending 3-4 nights a week there , so it was up to Michele to make all the design selection decisions. The youngest Schwab, three and a half year old Isaac, was such a good sport as we toured various showrooms. Scott shared with me later how important that time was to Michele. Being able to immerse herself in something other than the details of the accident was a huge gift.
To pull this off from a logistics standpoint, I knew I’d need a lot of help. The Olathe Planning Department graciously gave us an expedited permit process. I reached out to all our vendors and suppliers and was met with an overwhelming outpouring of support and help.
The next three weeks passed in a flurry of planning and walkthroughs, preparing and packing. The night before they left for their vacation, we sat in folding chairs around their empty living room. Fry Wagner Moving & Storage had taken delicate care of the Schwab’s belongings, packing them away for the demolition process that would begin the next day. Scott and Michelle seemed to have a peace about them, a genuine gratitude for this big change.
When our demolition crew showed up early on April 19th, we were greeted by a handwritten note from the Schwab’s, thanking us for our dedication. This only further motivated us to bless the socks off of this incredible family.
Our goal was to move them back in on the following Friday, meaning we had just nine days to get the job done. You know those time-lapse videos of projects, where it looks like everything is in fast forward? It felt like we were moving at that pace in real time! We jumped right in, getting all of the demolition completed on all three floors on the first day. Our team had to quickly start rebuilding the walls, getting the new electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work completed.
(Some action shots of our hard working crew!)
The craftsmen and craftswomen who showed up for these 16-20 hour days were incredible. Each team member and subcontractor coordinated with each other in tight spaces, working around the challenges that arise in any home project. When a flooring installation didn’t go as planned, SBR Hardwood Floors dropped their scheduled plans to help us resolve the issue when they heard who it was for.
I was incredibly proud of our Straub team, who stepped up to help make sure all parts of the process went as smoothly as possible, giving up their evenings and weekend.
Gratitude All Around
The Schwabs were scheduled to arrive back at the house from their vacation at 6 PM on Friday. Things were really down the wire—we were wiping the last of the construction dust off the garage door moments before their car pulled onto the street.
We’d gathered family and a few of their neighbors and close friends to surprise them with a homecoming pizza party. Words just can’t describe the joy that filled our hearts as we watched Scott, Michelle, Nathan, Alex, and Isaac walk through their new home. They kept saying thank you over and over, but it was truly us who felt grateful for the blessing of being able to help.
Scott shared later that he went downstairs at 2 am on that first night to find Michele in her new kitchen, just staring at the cabinets. We had made a last minute decision to update all of the doorknobs and didn’t even realize that their son Alex had been struggling with the dexterity to open the old door knobs. The results of our extreme makeover were full of God-sent blessings like that.
(Here is the Schwab’s home, after our renovations were complete.)
One of the last touches I did on the house was to help the Schwab’s rehang their beautiful family photos in their entry. A beautiful large canvas photo of Caleb sits on a shelf by their stairwell, a daily reminder of their beloved son.
You never know the full impact of something like this. I was surprised by how much it affected the lives of everyone who touched this project. From the vendors and subcontractors, to the sales associate at the plumbing and lighting vendor who teared up when she found out who Michele was, everyone felt truly blessed to be a part of this project.
It’s hard to even put into words how rewarding it was to be a part of something good like this. From start to finish, the whole project was less than a month long, but I feel like I’m still feeling the effects of the the excitement and energy from this “Extreme Makeover.” Getting to spend so much time with Scott, Michele and their three boys was a blast. I didn’t realize how much this opportunity to bless them would end up being an answer to prayer for myself.
Everyone that helped this come together is listed at the link below. They deserve so much credit. Thank you! And to the Schwab family, we will continue to have you in our thoughts and prayers each day.
Thanks to all those who contributed:
- The Hayes Company
- Performance Contracting Inc.
- Dayco Painting
- Mo-Kan Carpet
- Home Depot
- Kincaid Ready Mix
- Overland Concrete
- Arbor Masters
- Cates Service Company
- Overhead Door Company
- Ferguson Enterprises
- K&G Plumbing
- Heritage Electric
- Factory Direct Appliances
- City of Olathe
- Bernie Electric Supply
- Rapid Disposal
- Dream Kitchen & Supply
- Extreme Tile Repair
- Granite Tops
- KC Tile Source
- Fry Wagner Moving
- Noonshine Window Cleaning
- Fresh Cleaning
- ISC Surfaces
- Kansas City Millwork
- Felisa & Company
- Holmes Drywall Supply
- SBR Hardwood Floors
- Maverick Lumber
- Ben Tarbe Used Brick