Once Nick Webb heard “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was coming to the Coastal Empire, he couldn’t wait to join the force of volunteers.
As a matter of fact, the Effingham County native was the first one in line for the pep rally at the Lucas Theatre to drum up recruits for the project that ultimately built a new house for the Simpson family and their 2-year-old son Zoe.
“I was there two hours early,” Webb said. “All pictures on the (Web) site, I’m the guy sitting on the ground.”
It also happens to be Webb’s favorite show, so there was no doubt in his mind he was going to take part.
“If I could do that for a living, I would definitely be doing that,” he said. “I loved it, I loved it, every second of it. I hated leaving.”
Webb was signed up for two shifts as a volunteer, both late-night sessions. He went online to register as a volunteer but when the Nov. 1 pep rally rolled around, he hadn’t heard from the show.
“You could go online and register to volunteer,” he said. “You can specify if you can or cannot work certain days and what shifts you prefer. At the pep rally, there was a guy passing a signup sheet because they needed more night workers. By that time, I hadn’t heard back from my other try so I signed up again.”
Webb opted for night shifts for a couple of reasons. “I figured everyone’s going to try to do day shift because that’s when they do most of the filming,” he said. “That’s when most people would rather be out there. And I stay up all night anyway. I felt I could do more work at night.”
Three days before they announced the family who would be receiving the new home, Webb got an e-mail telling him he had the Sunday midnight-6 a.m. shift. A day after the pep rally, he got an e-mail informing him he had the Wednesday midnight-6 a.m. shift.
“I don’t know if I was supposed to do that or not,” he said. “But I was out there.”
During his first shift, the crews were trying to get the concrete poured for the foundation and were a couple of hours behind schedule. The house that had stood there had been demolished, making way for the new home. It left him with not much to do while that task was under way.
So Webb waited in the 36-degree weather until he got called upon.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘I wish I could do something,’ but it was still cool to be there and know that less than 24 hours ago, there was a full house there and now there was nothing,” he said. “It was cool just watching and freezing.”
Once they got the concrete poured, Webb was put to work. They called for six volunteers to remove a large dirt pile from what was to be the center of the house. With the trenches for concrete already in place, a tractor could not be brought in to remove the pile.
So it was up to volunteer manual labor — and Webb.
“I was the only guy. I couldn’t let my gender down,” he said. “I started shoveling dirt and two hours and 45 minutes later, I was the only volunteer shoveling dirt.”
It took almost four dozen wheelbarrow loads to remove the dirt.
“It was tiring,” Webb said. “But now that’s that done, whenever they show that house on TV and they show the living room, I can honestly say, ‘You know, there’d be a big pile of dirt in the middle of it if it wasn’t for me shoveling.’”
Before reporting for his Wednesday overnight shift, Webb finished a 4-10 p.m. shift at his regular job at Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah. He went to his sister’s house to change clothes but wasn’t tired when he got to the Simpson homesite.
“I was so hyped up and excited I didn’t feel it,” he said.
There was also a marked difference from his last shift shoveling load after load of dirt.
“I got there and the house looked like it was almost finished,” he said. “Three days ago, and the concrete wasn’t even poured yet. The house has shingles on it. The lights were already running. How did they get that far this quick? I was floored. I was amazed by it.”
This time, they needed volunteers with experience in painting. Webb had recruited a friend of his to take part in the shift, and they gladly took up brushes and cans. They painted one of the bathrooms and the hallway with the elevator. He also cleaned out the attic and the master bedroom closet and painted in the master bathroom.
Now when the house is shown, “I can be like, ‘ha, I painted that,’” he said. “That’s not the goal, but it is cool. I was happy to be able to be out there. To get to put the finishing touches that that family is going to see when they walk in, that’s pretty exciting.”
Webb’s only regret was he would like to have been on more shifts.
“I wish I could do it every week,” he said. “They were a family that was struggling and needed some help and thousands of volunteers were able to help them.”
As rewarding as he found the work, so did the other volunteers he spoke to on the site. “For people who have never gotten to help somebody and to see it make a change, it’s life-changing for everybody,” Webb said, “people out there who have never taken six hours out of their day to do some hard manual labor for someone they’ve never met in their life and probably never meet.
“That little 2-year-old kid is going to be able to grow up and hopefully be able to live a fulfilling and full life because of something we helped out with. That’s worth it.”