WEST UNION — Hundreds of people packed the Gibbs family’s front yard Sunday afternoon cheering, snapping pictures and chanting “Move that bus!” as they anxiously waited for Audrey Gibbs and her six children to see their home for the first time.
The family learned last week it had been chosen by the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” to receive a new home. The Gibbs spent the past week at a resort in Boca Raton, Fla., while about 1,500 volunteers and crews from the show worked on the home and raised money.
“They deserve it,” said Kevin Honn, an uncle of the family. “They struggled for years and years, it’s just something they needed.”
After her husband died in 2000, Audrey Gibbs had a brain aneurysm, and doctors declared her legally blind. The family has lived in a rundown farm house and leased out land to local farmers.
“She’s just a fighter,” said Debbie Honn, a close relative. “With all her medical problems, I’d have gave up years ago. She just kept raising those kids.”
The show’s host Ty Pennington and designers Paul DiMeo, Tracy Hutson, Sabrina Soto and Jeff Dye were on hand as the emotional family entered their living quarters for the first time on Sunday. The five bedroom farm-style house is complete with an addition resembling a silo and a barn housing a two-car garage.
The show is releasing few details about the interior of the home, until after the episode airs on ABC. The airdate has also not yet been released. Relatives said the new home will allow Audrey to work as a massage therapist from home: She had to give up her job as a cosmetologist after losing her eyesight.
The Gibbs’ grandfather, Roger Honn, said there is a mechanic workshop attached to the house for his grandsons to work on their motorcycles.
Josie Springman, a niece of Audrey Gibbs, said she’s mostly excited for the family to have little things many people take for granted, like working toilets and a dinner table where they can all sit down together.
“Before they had to sit at a picnic table,” Springman said. A ceiling in the home also was collapsing.
On Sunday, the Extreme Makeover design team said the family’s mortgage had been paid off thanks to local donations. Northern Iowa Community College and Upper Iowa University also awarded scholarships to the children.
“The amount of love this community has for this family, we’d never be able to finish this without the volunteers,” Soto said.
Ed Larson and his wife Janet of Larson Construction Co. of Independence, who were the builders on the project, said taking part in the project was rewarding.
“It’s a beautiful home done really, really well with some professional designers. It’s very, very nice. They will be very happy, all of us will,” he said.
Family members say it’s a miracle and are forever in debt to the complete strangers who changed their lives.
“I just want to thank everyone for the whole family from the bottom of our hearts,” Debbie Honn said. “What they’ve done for Audrey, it’s wonderful.”
–Kristin Guess of the Waterloo Courier contributed to this report.