JOPLIN — The effort to rebuild Joplin is getting a boost from a popular TV show.
ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is building dream homes for seven families. The makeover work began Wednesday and is expected to take a week. It is another effort by volunteers to reshape the southwest Missouri community devastated by a tornado on May 22 that killed 162 people and destroyed or damaged more than 7,500 homes.
The TV program has been coordinating with Joplin officials for several months. Organizers said the goal is to provide a foundation that will spur additional rebuilding.
Show host Ty Pennington will give the call on Oct. 26 to "move that bus" and reveal the new homes to the families for the first time.
The families picked for the show were learning of their selection on Wednesday, and by mid-morning, those names had not been revealed. The show's "Builder Braveheart March" was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
The construction work will involve a massive undertaking in a short amount of time.
Springfield contractor Sam Clifton is leading the construction effort. The TV show brought in 18 project managers, and the Home Builders Association of Southwest Missouri was helping to coordinate the efforts of thousands of volunteers, building professionals and tradespeople. Twenty-one building contractors, including six from Joplin, are participating. Volunteers are working 12-hour shifts, and crews will work around the clock.
All material for the build was donated, and churches in Joplin are working together to prepare about 30,000 meals for those involved in the building process.
Clifton has been involved in "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" before. In 2009, his Millstone Custom Homes led the effort to provide a new home for the Hampton family in Ash Grove.
"We are thrilled to be part of this massive undertaking," Clifton said at a news conference in August announcing plans for the project. "It will be no small task, but our team is eager to help rebuild Joplin in the aftermath of the devastation we experienced in May."
The EF-5 tornado reached speeds of more than 200 mph and ripped a path of devastation through the heart of Joplin. Entire neighborhoods were left in shambles, homes completely flattened. Shopping centers and business districts were destroyed. The community lost its high school and other schools.
But Joplin's comeback is already evident. The school year started on schedule, with students meeting in converted stores. Homes are starting to sprout up. Millions of tons of debris from destroyed homes and businesses have been cleared and bulldozed, waiting for rebirth. Construction crews are working late into the night to fix damaged homes and businesses.
The Joplin Globe, in an editorial on Tuesday, said the arrival of the ABC program will let the world see that Joplin is on the mend.
"The nation has seen the devastation of Joplin, but through this "big build," the spotlight will be on what we like best about our town — the ability to rise above our own losses in order to help someone else," the editorial read.