Tim Chitwood

Who deserves an 'Extreme Makeover'?

Is your house falling apart while you devote all your time and money to charitable endeavors? Does anyone in your family have a deadly disease? Have you endured so many hardships that millions of TV viewers would wipe tears from their eyes were they to see a team of contractors dramatically renovate your dilapidated home and offer hope and inspiration to all?

If to any of those questions you answered “no,” then perhaps you need not apply to be on the reality TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which is looking for a deserving family with a decaying home to fix up here in Georgia.

“It’s the Columbus, Macon, Savannah area, wherever we can find a deserving family in need,” said Jean Arthur, a casting producer for the ABC series that airs at 8 p.m. Sundays.

What in this context constitutes “deserving”?

Examples cited in a letter soliciting nominations included a North Dakota family who started a Little League program for children with special needs; an Indiana woman who led a local Relay for Life cancer walk after her mother got breast cancer and then she got breast cancer, too; and a Tennessee woman paralyzed when she threw herself across her sons as a tornado hit their home. “As you can see, our definition of deserving can be fairly broad,” says the letter.

Actually the definition seems fairly narrow, and the standard fairly high.

Do the homeowners have to have gone through hell and back?

“That’s a nice way of putting it, actually,” Arthur said before answering, “No. What I always find are families that always continue to give back to the community…. So as long as they give back to the community, and it’s a family the community can kind of champion.”

Neighbors, friends and nonprofit organizations also may submit nominations, but they’d better do it quick because the deadline’s Dec. 1.

To be eligible, the family has to own a home or land to build on. Included in the nomination should be: names and ages of each person in the household, an account of the difficulties the family faces, contact information for the homeowner, and photos of the family and home, if possible.

Nominations may be submitted by e-mail to ExtremeGeorgia@gmail.com, or in a letter to Family Casting, P.O. Box 38670, Los Angeles, CA 90038.

Let’s hope the homes nominated are not at risk of imminent collapse, because deciding on a deserving family’s going to take a few months, Arthur said. The filming won’t start until 2010.

Until then, no one can tell the people chosen, because it’s supposed to be a big surprise when the host, Ty Pennington, shows up at their door.

Let’s hope he’s not shot.

You have to be careful about surprising people, in some areas.

Sometimes the best way to give back to the community is to head up the Neighborhood Watch.