COLUMBIA — Tears streamed down the faces of three Stephens College students and their faculty adviser Friday night at the watch party of the Joplin episode of 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.'
They were crying as the host presented the seven families, who were victims of the May tornado in Joplin, to his team. The crew built seven homes in seven days for these families. It was emotional for the Stephens crew, because they were part of the thousands of volunteers involved in the building and decorating of these homes.
Although the Stephens crew was crying, they were able to talk about all the work they did in Joplin.
"It was great to see this and it's what we've waited for so long, and they haven't been able to talk about it," said Shelley Gabert, director of marketing and public relations for Stephens College.
Emily Ricketts, 22, a student at Stephens College who participated in the build, said she was relieved she could finally talk about the details and specifics of the work she did.
"It's been hard to keep a secret," Ricketts said. "We thought we would get to talk about the show after the families first saw their homes."
The three interior design students were part of a group of Stephens students who went down to the Joplin site in late October as volunteers for the build.
"I never thought I'd be a part of something that big," said Jessica Grenke, 20. "I'm glad all those people got homes."
"Getting to be there and see the families come home was just awesome," Ricketts said. "Knowing that they had a home to go to and we got to help was the best feeling."
At the watch party, the Stephens crew was ready to view their work with friends and family.
"It's something they will always remember and they will never get to experience this again," said Gabert. "They really impacted lives with their work."
One of the Stephens crew's favorite projects was the princess room that was in the home of the Whitely family, who lost everything in the Joplin tornado. Inside the pink room with Disney princesses on the walls, the room's new owner, Keana, put on her custom-made dress and twirled around. The Stephens College crew had designed the dress.*
Stephanie Hall, 27, an interior design student, ordered the shiny blue and silver fabric for the princess dress and her friend sewed the dress together.
"I'm really glad the dress fit, you have no idea," Hall said. "It's been stressing me out for months."
Another special project that the group took charge of was creating a mural in the Gonzalez-Ely home. The mural took days to complete and covered the wall near the kitchen. The crew had added a huge quote about love in the center. They spent four days more than they had planned in Joplin to complete this mural.
"I was very excited and happy to see the mural, even if it was only for a quick second," Hall said after the show.
Out of the thousands of volunteers on the show, the Stephens team was "unique," said Shelly Vincent-Masek, an instructor in Stephens’ interior design department who served as the team leader on the project.
"Most volunteers only worked an eight-hour shift, but we were there for days and they relied on us," Vincent-Masek said. "Basically we were allowed to come and go as we please."
Hall said the Stephens College community was in full support of the group. One teacher brought down a steamer for clothes and other materials the crew didn't realize they would not have access to in Joplin.
Ricketts said she remembered a time when they were eating in Applebee's and the design producer came over to their group and thanked them for all their work.
"The whole experience kind of leaves me speechless," Ricketts said.