Donna Crawford
Redondo Beach, California


I was born in North Carolina and lived there until I was about 2 or so.  My father was in the military, so we moved every year or two.  We lived up and down the east coast, in Arkansas, Germany and Kansas, before he retired in 1980.  I attended Manhattan High School (in Kansas) and college and law school at the University of Kansas (Go Jayhawks!!).

I've lived in Alabama, Georgia, Texas and California since leaving my parents' home.  I currently live in California with my husband Kirk (even while we were on our RTW, we considered California as home). My family and friends are scattered all over the place, as you can imagine.

My husband and I are highly involved with our church, locally. I have lots of hobbies, including cooking, HAM radio, reading, travelling, bzflag, and sports/outdoor activities. Although I love to watch Jayhawk Basketball, I generally prefer to participate. Some of my favorites are beach volleyball, scuba diving, cycling, rowing, swimming, snow skiing, tramping, surfing, off-roading, etc.

My travels over the last few years have taken me to Costa Rica, Hawaii, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and most recently, on a 15-country, 1-year round-the-world trip.

Feel free to drop me an email to let me know how you're doing, or any other suggestions you have for these pages! And be sure to sign my new Guestbook!

Recent Articles

Saturday, April 14


BzFlag & GSoC

I had a rather funny dream last night but to understand it, you must first know a little of what's been going on lately. A few weeks ago, I was asked to apply as a Google Summer of Code mentor for BzFlag. Not only was I completely surprised by the request, I felt totally inadequate. Although I've been playing BzFlag for a bit over 3 years now, I PLAY. I am not a developer (despite the many people who have mistakenly believed me to be after seeing a "developers gathering" photo). In fact, I haven't written a single piece of code since I took FORTRAN in college. So my first reaction was, "WHAT?! Why me?!"

The SoC administrator proceeded to explain to me that the BzFlag project would be more of a team-led mentoring, and the designated mentor was more of a shepherd. And so, I started to think about it. One of my strengths is mentoring. It's also what I've most enjoyed about some of my past positions. So, I ultimately said "yes" and applied.

After several days of evaluating proposals (as best as I could), the administrator had to rank the various proposals, assign mentors (at least temporarily) and then we were waiting on Google to determine the number of slots we would receive. Initially slotted for five, BzFlag ended up with only four. And initially, I was assigned as a mentor for a slotted position. Keep in mind, there were about 10 people (9 of them actually qualified to mentor through giving direction on coding) who were willing to mentor for BzFlag. Ultimately, my mentee was given to another, more qualified mentor.

Was I relieved? Absolutely! This summer is rapidly looking busier and busier. Plus, I've possibly taken on a bit more than I bargained for with ShareFest. Was I disappointed? Surprisingly, yes, a bit. Which, I presume, is what led to my comical dream. In the dream, the administrator was begging mentees in turn to accept me as their mentor. None of them wanted me! Can you imagine?! Bah!

Anyway, I'm very excited that BzFlag has been accepted to Google's Summer of Code and we are all looking forward to the projects being developed this summer!

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Monday, March 12


Grant Me...Wisdom? Strength? Anything?!

So over a month ago now, a couple of my friend from work did something pretty radical. After a year of spending time evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, talents and gifts, interests and more, they were about to be placed into optimal positions at work. But instead, they decided to strike out on their own and, 2 years earlier than planned, launch a non-profit they had been working on (Sharefest). You might remember me mentioning Sharefest in some earlier posts, in particular, those about Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Sharefest is s a nonprofit ecumenical organization dedicated to positive change through tangible acts of service. It exists to bring together churches, community-based organizations and businesses to meet needs and foster hope and unity within the South Bay as a whole. As a non-profit, it relies heavily on donations and fundraisers in order to accomplish its purposes.

When Bryan and Chad left King's Harbor, I told them to let me know if they needed any help. Well, I've now (somehow!) agreed to do their grant writing for them. Having never done any grant writing before, I'll probably be finding some sort of a seminar to attend to get up to speed. Also, I'm contacting businesses and organizations all over our area, trying to determine who provides grants (or sponsorships) and gather what information we need in order to submit a grant application. It's a bit overwhelming. On that note, if you know of any businesses (local, national or international) who provide grants for non-profits in Southern California (LA area), please let me know! Name, contact, url - anything you have is helpful.

In additiion, for those of you who might not know, I joined the staff of freenode irc network in January. I'm still coming up to speed on my duties and responsibilities there. There is also a staff blog to which I made my first contribution.

And finally, I'm slowly getting back to work. A month out of the office with illness has made it slow going. But with Bryan and Chad gone and trying to help our new administrator, Chad (there's a funny story about Chads and KHC - remind me to tell you sometime), get oriented and settled in, I feel like I really need to be in the office. Besides, it's really nice to be back at work - I really enjoy the people I work with!


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Thursday, October 19


The Last Day - Final Extreme Preparations

The last day of work and so much still to be done. I headed over to the house not sure what to expect. Some co-workers were meeting there in the late morning. I don't know what I was thinking - I actually showed up in street clothes. I had thought to put my volunteer shirt on that morning, but it smelled so bad I couldn't bear it. I did bring it along in the car though.

When I got to the house work was still in full swing. The streets were already jammed with spectators, so I went back to my car, changed into the volunteer shirt and walked back to see what I could do. All sorts of things were still being done - work on the interior, the exterior, picking up the neighborhood, beginning the relandscaping of some of the neighboring homes, breaking down some of the temporary structures that had been erected. I plopped my hard hat on my head and set to work.

Donna & Linda chat outside the houseI spent some time deconstructing tents and picking up rubbish. At one point, I heard someone call my name. I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but you have to be 18 to work on an Extreme Home Makeover project. We have no such age restrictions on our Mississippi trips - we've taken kids as young as 10 or so, although generally, we prefer 13 or older. Rebecca, who had been on 2 trips to Mississippi with us, and her younger sister, Amanda, were standing along the fencing, watching the craziness. Rebecca asked me to sign her shirt - hehe, I felt like a celebrity, though I'm just one of hundreds of volunteers. We chatted for a bit and Rebecca showed me her arm - she had put tick marks on her arm for every person she saw volunteering that she knew. There were probably close to 200 people marked off on her arm! Wow!

I returned to working and ended up inside the house. The interior was completely chaotic! There were so many people in the house, it was hard to determine what needed to be done! I spent some time in the master bedroom, cleaning up some paint spots that had been spilled onto the floor. I spent some more time helping another volunteer try to clean up the dust and debris in the very cool laundry room/boot room. I played gopher for several people.

At one point, I ran into my friend, Kristen. I hadn't seen her the whole time I'd been on the site, though I had talked to her extensively before the build started. She and her husband, Rod (very very good friends of Kirk's since grade school) had helped by providing an RV for the week, locating a granite supplier, and lots of other things. She was helping the photographer, Trish. So, I started helping them. Trish had framed a bunch of the photos of the family that she had taken in Cabo San Lucas. They had been stored in the grandmother's closet - where they had gotten somewhat dusty, and in spots, quite dirty. I spent some time cleaning them up and sorting them between the type of frame they were in (all were solid black wood frames, but the wood detail was a little different for each). Meanwhile, while I was doing this, much was happening in the room. Frames were being hung, window dressing examined and critiqued, plants being repotted, clean up happening, the room was being reorganized. There were about 3 times as many people in the room than it could handle with all that stuff being done.

volunteers gather outsideEventually, we were ready to hang the photos (after a bit of a wild goose chase, looking for the appropriate nails). The photos were simply incredible. We spent some time placing them in the hallway between the bedrooms and bathrooms, getting them arranged and then hung. I walked around a bit more, cleaning up and doing other odd jobs but I didn't have anything specific in the house to be doing at that point and they were trying to clear some of the extra people out, so I left and had some lunch.

When I came back, there were still tons of people in the house, but they weren't allowing anyone back in, so I found a spot alongside the yard of the house, where many of the volunteers were gathering for the festivities later.

To Be Continued...

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Wednesday, October 18


A Community Responds

I received a really interesting email today. A woman who works at a local scrapbooking store had been asked to create a scrapbook for the family, showing the work that had been done to build their house. She was searching the web for information on the family and got a hit on my website. So she sent me an email. It is so interesting to hear the ways people in the community have contributed to this project!

Remember I said all the materials, etc. were donated (or at least that is the way it's supposed to work). Perhaps people in the South Bay/Southern California are calloused because of the number of films that shoot here. Maybe they are just too greedy, I don't know. But there were a number of things that we had inordinate difficulty finding: shuttles to carry the workers to and from the job site from the parking area (no way you can fit vehicles for 400+ workers into that little neighborhood), tents for all sorts of different headquarters, rest areas, etc., quickdry cement for the foundation, RVs (recreational vehicles) to use for certain people who had to be onsite 24x7 for the duration of the project. Some of these things we never got donated and different people (the contractor, ShareFest, ABC) had to pay for out of pocket. But other things came in odd ways. Instead of getting RVs from a single location, different families in the community donated theirs for the week. Our friends, Rod and Kristen Lenders, for example, were thrilled to contribute in even this small way. In addition, they found us a granite supplier, which up to that point, we didn't have.

Some of the local radio and television stations ran a short promo asking for drywallers, tilers, etc. to come help. Scores of talented, skilled people showed up to volunteer their time.

Steve and Joyce Fukumoto, who have a local floral business, organized a Farmer's Market, where all the proceeds would benefit the family. I heard a story afterwards about the Farmer's Market. The Fukumotos were hoping to raise $11,000 for the family. The Farmer's Market took in over $4,000, which is great, but Steve & Joyce were disappointed that it wasn't more. Shortly after that, someone handed them a check for $7,000!

A photographer from the LA area, Trish (I'll post her full name when I remember it), did a rather amazing thing. She flew herself down to Cabo San Lucas, where the family was vacationing during the build. She contacted the family and arranged to spend a day with them. She took some truly amazing photos - black and whites, of the family - individual shots, family shots, husband/wife shots. She flew home, blew them up and framed about 20 of them. The hallway between the bedrooms is beautifully decorated thanks to Trish's heart and talented eye.

These are only a few of the many many stories of people who went above and beyond to help the Ripattis!

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Sunday, October 15


Extreme Night Shifts

The rafters and walls have been completedWell, Kirk suffered from a fever for most of the day Saturday. He slept as much as possible and by late evening, the fever had broken. His original start time to head out to the worksite was 9PM, but because of the delays he didn't go in until midnight last night. As it turned out, they weren't able to start the work until almost 2AM. The work he was going in to do couldn't be completed until they had finished installing the rafters. Kirk and the rest of the team he was on started work on the Smart House stuff and Kirk was also able to do some work with the Low Voltage team. The house is coming along quickly, and on Sunday afternoon, they were desperately in need of people to help drywall, mud and sand.

front view of the house at around 4AM on Sunday morningAs you can see from some of the photos, the house is really two separate structures joined by a hallway. The front house contains the kitchen, dining area and great room. The back portion of the house contains the master bedroom, bath and a workout area, a separate bedroom and bath for Kristina's mother, who is moving in to help care for Kristina and Jordan, and a bedroom and bath for Jordan. The hallway is sandwiched between a courtyard and a patio. The courtyard has a beautiful outdoor stone fireplace (the great room has a separate indoor fireplace).

Kirk came home around 4:30AM and his fever was back, full force. Not a good thing for someone who'd be boarding an airplane in about 14 hours. He slept as late as he could. He was mostly already packed for his trip to Australia. We spent most of the day/afternoon together and then it was time to take him to the airport. :(

He was facing a long, very brutal bit of travel - a flight from LAX to Sydney, a layover, then a hop to Adelaide. Then another flight to Darwin. All in all, almost 24 hours of travel for him - yuck! AND he would be gone for almost a full two weeks. At least I had building the house to distract me for a few days.

After dropping Kirk at the airport, I drove over to do some more work. I figured the nightshift would be the most sparse. When I got there, I was amazed at the work that had been done since I left. the front portion of the house was mostly roofed, they had built in the skylights, the interior was being drywalled & mudded, the patio and courtyard were being prepped (they were laying some of the irrigation piping, etc.). And there were a LOT of people everywhere!

I got the lay of the land - everytime I went, I had to get sorted out all over again. I bumped into my friend Neil. It was HIS team I was on - the framing team. He had been there pretty much since the thing started - almost 48 hours and was barely standing. He was determined to make sure the framing got completed timely and with the very best of quality. In fact, despite the claims of some people who just aren't on these work sites, the job is done very very solidly. One of the reasons Vic was picked as the General Contractor is his dedication to excellence. His team leaders have the same work ethic.

One of the things that caused me to have a good laugh was the drywallers. Each and every one of the drywallers in the house (they had divided themselves up into 4 teams) were all professional, union guys. Now, remember, I told you we were, on the whole, VERY far behind in the work. Ten hours when you only have 106 is really a significant deficit! The drywallers had a bet going - $1000 to the team that finished the fastest. I'll tell you what - do NOT get in those guys' way when they are out to win bragging rights (and a bit of cash too). Keep in mind, these guys, like everyone else, were volunteers - which made the bet all the more interesting. I have no idea who actually won, but even Vic put some money down on one of the teams.

View of the courtyard from the roofI spent a good part of my time pulling manual labor. The framers were pretty well covered, so I moved debris, carried tiles into the house for the tilers (who were getting close to tiling the bathrooms). In addition, a bunch of us carried bag after bag of shingles from the front of the house to a ladder on the patio. I met some new people - some that I at least knew the names of, and others I just had never met before. I met Noah, the son of the friend of our friend Mike T. Mike was Kirk's team leader and organized the entire Smart House installation. I met Ty, the pastor at another local church. I met Dan and Jenny - both of attend King's Harbor Church (which is where I attend and work). Dan and Ty and I (along with Noah) all spent a good amount of time getting the shingles from the ground onto the roof and then moved to the section of roof where they would be used. It was grueling work and took all four of us (plus a fifth guy who joined right at the end) to complete the work. We took a break for food/drink, and then came back to discover that there were a bunch more tiles on the courtyard side that needed to be carried up the ladder to the roof too!

I got pulled off that job and went in to help the tilers for a while. There was soooo much tile! And it was all beautiful! But each bit was for a different purpose in a different bathroom. With three bathrooms to choose from, we had to be careful where we took each HEAVY box.

At one point in the midst of this, we suddenly had to vacate everything from one of the neighboring houses (I have no idea why). But we had to move a tent, table, tools, materials. A number of us got to work getting everything moved from that location to another.

Finally, around 3AM, I was beat and decided to head home. Part of me wanted to stay, but my body was telling me I was done for the night. And so, my nightshift ended.

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Saturday, October 14


A Day of Extreme Late and Wait

Today was my first day to volunteer on a construction team for the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition house we are building. I received a call on Friday to report for the framing team at 8AM on Saturday. Apparently, there was another team coming even earlier (5AM).

I arrived at the checkin tent, filled out my waivers, received my hardhat and t-shirt, grabbed my tools and headed over to the staging area with my friend, Elaine. Elaine and I have worked in Mississippi together on three different trips. The staging area was mostly empty, to our surprise. We did run into John A (another former Mississippi team member) and he told us to head over to the house. Most of the framers were having breakfast then, as the build was already "behind schedule".

We took a walk up the street and found the canteen area. It was still full of framers, but many were already heading over to the job site. I grabbed a cup of caffeine and then we headed over ourselves. It turns out that it took longer to do the backfill, and the job was over 6.5 hours behind schedule. When the alloted timeframe is only 106 hours to begin with, this is a pretty significant delay. There were a lot of guys laying rebar in the house footprint. To me, that meant the concrete wasn't even down, but surely THAT wasn't possible. At any rate, they were no where NEAR ready for the framers, much less the 50-60+ framers we had on site at the time.

We spent a little time getting oriented and chatting with people who had been onsite for a while. At one point, one of the ABC guys asked us to remove some signage from some fencing near the visitor area. Apparently the fencing provider had not made arrangements to have his signage displayed. It was interesting to stand there, removing screws and bolts, listening to neighborhood people talk about what was going on.

There was a WHOLE lot of "hurry up and wait" today. For me, it's the most frustrating part of construction. Even more so when I knew there was so much to be done, but had a hard time finding someone who could point us in the right direction.

The forms and rebar are laid, ready for the concrete to be poured We did some other random things - one of the neighbors (the neighbors's yards literally become part of the work site) had left his car in a spot where we needed to bring in a fork lift. We tried moving it, but you needed the keys to put it into neutral to move it. One of the team leaders got a forklift in there and moved the car out of the way with the forklift. That same neighbor had had a palm tree very near the border of the property we were working on. The palm had been removed and we spent an inordinate amount of time trying to dig up the roots. I never realized what a mess (and how tough) palm tree roots are. (As a side note, many, if not most, of the neighbors will end up having their property relandscaped when the project is over - it is all part of what the general contractor agreed to take care of when he took on the project).

The concrete is poured and dryingFinally, I realized something - the rebar meant exactly what I thought it meant. The concrete wasn't in yet! A good part of the morning was consumed with the laying of concrete. For this project, they use a special type of concrete - it is actually generally used for highrises, etc. It is much much stronger, rarely (if ever) used for residential builds, but the key - it is extremely quick drying. They poured the entire house foundation, and before they were even finished pouring it, we were already removing the forms from the sections they poured first.

Elaine and I hopped onto one of the concrete teams (what else are we going to do when there is no framing to be had?!) and learned how to pull the forms and tidy things up. It was hard work, but really REALLY nice to be doing something. We also got to see some professionals lay concrete - some using some tools/machinery we had never seen. We both have done concrete in Mississippi, but nothing like this. It was rather cool.

lunch areaWe had finished pulling the forms off the part of the house that had dried and went to grab some lunch. There was a full lunch tent and rest area set up in the back of a house being built a couple of doors down. As I got in the lunch line, someone told me Kirk was there. I was shocked to see him sitting in the lunch area! He had, apparently, arrived about 10-15 minutes before and was eating lunch before he started volunteering. We sat and chatted for a bit. He was mostly finished when I sat down, so he quickly headed off for the job site as I relaxed with Mimi, Karen, Elaine, Kathy and Edie. After a short while, Gary - the ABC Project manager - sat down. We all had a nice chat with him about our project and the show in general.

Finally, it was time to head back to the job site. When we arrived back, many of the walls had been delivered and were awaiting set-up. This is a pretty slick thing - all the walls were pre-measured and preassembled at the staging area. They were delivered, already built, WITH the plywood already attached! All we had to do was put the walls in the proper position, attach them to one another and fix them into place. I jumped in and started helping with this. There weren't enough nail guns to go around and there was an overabundance of people helping, but I did what I could when I could.

Volunteers start to raise the wallsJust as we had finished putting up the exterior walls and were about to start on the interior ones, I got a phone call. It was Kirk - he was in the canteen area and feeling very poorly. He needed to go home. The trick was, he had ridden his motorcycle to the site and didn't feel up to getting home on it, so he needed me to drive him back. A bit of juggling and I got him a ride to the staging area. I collected some of his things from the job site and then walked down to meet him. From there, I went and got the car and drove back to pick him up.

He was pale, cold and clammy, weak. I took him home and he promptly went to sleep. As I write this, he's feeling better a bit. His fever has come down and he is debating whether to go back to the jobsite tonight - the team he is "officially" on is scheduled to start work around midnight or 1AM. Whether he goes tonight or not, he has to get on a plane tomorrow night, bound for Australia. I desperately hope that he is feeling much better and that this was a just a temporary bit of dehydration or heat exhaustion.

As a final note, we are apparently desperately in need of volunteers. If you live in (or near) the South Bay and are willing to spend a few hours of your time on this worthwhile and exciting project, please come down! The check-in station is at the corner of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Doolittle. At this point, they are asking for willing bodies - even if you aren't on the 'volunteer' list. Come on out! It's quite an experience!

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Daily Breeze Coverage of Extreme Week

The Daily Breeze printed the following story in its paper (I am including some photos from the media page of the official project website):

'Extreme Makeover' rebuilds injured police officer's home
ABC show comes to Redondo Beach to fulfill pledge.
By Kristin S. Agostoni

Since leaving the hospital this summer, Kristina Ripatti's life has been confined to a tiny house in north Redondo Beach.

The Swat Team arrives to help with the demolitionA ramp positioned out front has helped the paralyzed Los Angeles police officer wheel through the front door, but so many other parts of the small single-story home are simply inaccessible.
Sword Medical

With a wheelchair too wide for most doorways, Ripatti sleeps in the living area and needs someone to help her to the shower. Her mother- in-law stays over often, but the two-bedroom home Ripatti shares with her husband and young daughter doesn't leave much space for guests.

A popular ABC television show has promised all that will change in a week.

Producers with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" pulled their signature white bus into Redondo Beach on Wednesday to tell Ripatti and her husband, LAPD officer Tim Pearce, they're next on the list.

The Swat Team destroys the interior walls with C4 explosiveWhile the Ripattis vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico, their home will be knocked down, redesigned and built up again by the show's designers and a crew of volunteers.

"They came out the door crying, knowing this really bad year is about to get a little bit better," senior producer Diane Korman said Wednesday morning. "Our main goal is to create a house that doesn't need a ramp in the front."

Producers couldn't find a couple more deserving of a remodel than Pearce and Ripatti, former police partners who fell in love and married. They are the parents of a 20-month-old baby girl, Jordan.

Their lives changed June 3, when Ripatti came across James Fenton McNeal while patrolling the Exposition Park area. He was suspected of robbing a gas station.

She chased him and caught up with him, when he pulled out a gun and opened fire, striking her twice.

The house comes down quicklyThe 10-year department veteran was left paralyzed from the chest down.

Today, Ripatti's weeks are filled with physical therapy sessions and workouts, to the point that her mother asked recently if she was pushing herself too hard.

"She said, 'No, I can do more,' " said Margaret McConnell of Apple Valley, as her daughter and son-in-law stayed inside the home Wednesday, discussing plans and remodel preferences with designers.

"She's attacking therapy," McConnell said. "She's doing everything possible."

For the time being, however, builders are intent on making the house wheelchair-accessible. And while the show's producers wouldn't divulge many secrets, some on the team dropped a few hints.

"They wouldn't be happy with a fancy house. They're true beach people," said Michael Moloney, the show's interior designer and a South Bay native.

"I don't think it's going to be a beach house," he said, "but a low-key, Southern California (look)."

And considering the family's decent-size yard, Moloney added, count on designers "utilizing outdoor space."

Vic & Linda Braden, of Cornerstone Construction Group, watch as the house is demolishedThe building team will be headed up by Redondo Beach's Cornerstone Construction Group, which has donated supplies and expertise and lined up the subcontractors in a short amount of time.

Because the makeover is supposed to be a surprise and the network wanted to avoid leaks, the company was forced to work fast, said owner Linda Braden. But she didn't mind.

"You know that people like Kristina go out every day and put their lives on the line," Braden said. "We feel that it's important to let her know that we appreciate it."

Producers expect to spend most of their time today moving the family's belongings and preparing for the big demolition.

Friday morning around 9 a.m., scores of neighbors are expected to watch as Los Angeles police officers crush the old walls with a battering ram, reducing the home to rubble.

The couple will return to their new home Wednesday.

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Friday, October 13


Extreme Farmer's Market

Special Farmer's Market Fundraiser

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Wednesday, October 11


An Extreme Week

Well, now that the public announcement has been made, I can post about a rather exciting event coming to the South Bay! Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has chosen a South Bay family for its next project. That means that for a week (beginning today), the South Bay will be host to thousands of volunteers who will, in a single week, demo (destroy) the existing house on the property and build a new, special purpose home for the selected family! It's a massive undertaking, and even more so when you realize that all the labor, all the materials for the home are donated. The volunteer team will work around the clock (24 hours x 7 days x 1 week) to complete the house in the allotted time.

What makes this even more exciting for me is the connection that I am fortunate enough to have to this project! Obviously, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is an ABC program. But how does it work? ABC selects a local builder. In this case, our close friend, Vic Braden, and his company Cornerstone Construction Group, was selected. Vic took on an amazing task 2 years ago - he agreed to, on a strictly volunteer basis, be the general contractor for the renovation of the Morrell House in Redondo Beach (very near my house). The renovation began as a ShareFest project, but for 18 months, Vic and several people from our church gave up every Saturday to restore the craftsman style home to its original splendor. Kirk worked with Vic often. In addition, Vic has been the general contractor on most of the Mississippi Mission trips through King's Harbor Church. The first year that Kirk and I led a team to Mississippi, Vic was our GC. Vic has incredible ethics, amazing talent and he's a joy to work with. He has an incredible heart for God and inspires others daily.

When Vic was contacted by ABC and asked to take on this role, he called the church and had the staff begin praying for him. Ultimately, he agreed to take on the massive project. It's an interesting story Vic tells. He owns a small, local, family-run construction firm. Certainly not the typical profile for the contractors that ABC selects for this sort of thing. Several times, Vic said, "are you sure you have the right guy?!" Every time, the response was "We know who you are, and yes, we are sure!" Right before he got the call from ABC, Vic and his wife Linda were looking at their business. They had just finished a few projects. They had a couple more lined up to start. The new projects fell through at the last minute. Suddenly, they were faced with an empty plate and no real understanding of why. Then ABC called. God's timing is perfect! :) If they had had those projects when they received the call, they could not have said yes.

The way the project works is that ABC pre-selects five families from a general area. The families are notified they have been nominated, but no one knows which family has been chosen. Well, no one except a very VERY few at ABC and the top people involved in the project, the architects, etc. Who is the family, you ask?

Officer Ripatti leaves the hospital after being shot in the chestEarlier this year, LAPD Officer Kristina Ripatti (wife of LAPD Gang Officer Tim Pearce and mother of a young child) was shot while on patrol. She is now paralyzed from the chest down. The house we are "making over" will be for that family. King's Harbor Church and ShareFest both include many attendees and volunteers who are "first responders" - police officers, firemen, paramedics, etc. This particular project is an excellent fit for our participation.

So, ShareFest, Cornerstone Construction Group, a local marketing firm (Beckett & Beckett) and ABC are partnering up to do an amazing work in our small community. In the last weeks, hundreds and hundreds of volunteers are being lined up from the professional trades. Typically building is done on a horizontal timeline. The foundation is poured. When it's ready, the framers come in and frame the house. Then, the plumbers come in. Everything happens in a specific order. In this case, the building is done vertically - the subcontractors will be in the house at the same time, virtually on top of one another, trying to complete the work in the extraordinarily short time frame. If you've ever been around construction before, you know that generally, the subcontractors (or "subs" as they are often called) often don't speak to one another...they view themselves as being in competition with one another. This timeline forces them not only to talk to one another, but even to work together!

In addition to searching for manpower to build the house, CCG and ShareFest have been urgently rounding up suppliers to donate the materials used to build the house, food to feed the hundreds of volunteers, buses to get everyone in and out of the neighborhood, tents for the various headquarters, RVs for the few people involved who have to be onsite 24/7 for the duration of the project, and so many other things. The South Bay (and Southern California in general) has proven a tough sell for many. Many many movies are filmed here and so many companies are accustomed to these requests - they don't want to give anything away. On the other hand, if any of the materials are purchased and not donated, the family may find itself taxed on the home, which does not accomplish the goal. And so, many many phone calls are made, people involved trying desperately to find the few remaining requirements.

Perhaps you are now asking yourself whether Kirk and I are going to be involved in all of this. The answer is, quite simply, "YES!" Kirk is on the "Smart House" team. The entire house will be wired for all sorts of smart things - automated/remote control lights, computers, etc. I don't even know what it all includes, but Kirk is well-equipped to help out in this area. Our friend, Mike, is has a company that puts this sort of thing into houses regularly and he is running the team. Even though Kirk will really only be in town for a single day before leaving again for Australia, he will work his shift - contributing what he can. I have actually already done some work on the project, working on some behind-the-scenes stuff for ShareFest. In addition to building the house, we will be taking donations for the family. At the end of the week, we cut a check to the family for all of the donations we've taken in. (In reality, the donations will keep coming, as will the checks to the family, but for purposes of the show, the family is handed a check when they move back into their new home). In addition, I'm on the call list for several teams, and have been asked to be a "Marshall" (which means a gopher). I'm happy to do whatever I can.

As you can tell, I'm quite excited about this project and am looking forward to seeing what is accomplished in the South Bay as a result. Of course, a house will be built...but so much more is already happening! I will try to post updates as we go along!

The official project website lists much more information about the family, the volunteers and donors. In addition, you can donate from that site and volunteer to help!

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Tuesday, August 16


Bangkok Post Thursday 11 August 2005 - Goodwill volunteers

Bangkok Post Thursday 11 August 2005 - Goodwill volunteers: "Goodwill volunteers

A new breed of travellers leave their comfort zones to connect with local people, taking in their stride language and cultural barriers


Volunteering foreign tourists working on a public utility project in Isan.
Breaking the ice... visiting volunteers cross the cultural divide and join local kids in a game of football. — PHOTOS COURTESY NORTH BY NORTH-EAST TOURS
These days there are people who do not only enjoy the luxury of seeing places thousands of miles away from their homes, but they also want to bring benefits to the people or communities they visit. They travel with a purpose.

It's an emerging trend called 'voluntourism', a way by which people learn about other cultures and communities, and in Thailand, where it's only been around a few years, it's best evidenced in the aftermath of the tsunami that struck south Thailand last December when volunteers from all corners of the globe rushed to the region to help affected villagers and restore the ecology.

Jason Rolan of North by North-East Tours is a pioneer in this field. For the past six years he has been organising and coordinating voluntourism projects in Thailand's northeast and Laos, and according to him, opportunities are open to anyone who wants to see Southeast Asia and leave a positive mark along the way.

'Our projects include anything from teaching English in rural schools, to building playgrounds, tsunami relief and cultural conservation to working with underprivileged children,' he explained. Groups as well as individual volunteers are welcome. So far he has patched together groups from schools, universities, religious organisations and physicians and delivered them to places needing their services.

'Individuals or groups, our priority is to keep the project meaningful for those who stand to benefit from it. We welcome enquiries from everyone, including donors"

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Donna in Austria
Click for larger image Austria, August 2003