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Gibbs family loves "Extreme Makover" house

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 10/26/2011 6:24 PM

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WEST UNION, Iowa — Ed and Janet Larson, owners of Larson Construction Company builders for the Gibbs' "Extreme Makeover" home, shook hands and hugged the six Gibbs children during a press conference.

Janet Larson said they had never before completed a home construction project in seven days.

"It was very organized," Janet said. "We knew what had to be done each day. If we were ahead, good, if we were behind, we had to play catch up because they wanted to stay on schedule."

"The best part was seeing everybody's positive attitude," Ed said.

The Larsons said homeowner Audrey Gibbs is appreciative, grateful and awe-inspired by the project.

"She was overwhelmed to see the magnitude of people who came to help," Janet said. "Volunteers came from all over Iowa and surrounding states. It was unreal."

Audrey originally received a cosmetology degree form Northeast Iowa Community College but due to blindness caused by an aneurysm she couldn't continue in the profession. She returned to NICC for a professional massage therapy degree. The new house will allow her to work at home as a massage therapist.

Josh Gibbs, 20, attended a program to become a certified Harley Davidson mechanic and is looking for a job in that field. Nathan, 19, who works for a farmer, said that thanks to the scholarships, he will study business and agriculture and some day hopes to farm. Tom, 18, will enter the NICC automotive program. Jessi, 16, Nicole, 14, and Daniel, 13, attend North Fayette School in West Union.

Daniel was all smiles when Rick Bowers, who works for Larson Construction, presented him with a fishing pole that he made for him. He heard Daniel likes to fish.

"It's still soaking in," said Jessi of the new house. "It's one in a million. It's amazing and unique."

She and Nicole said they have been fans of the TV show.

"It's spectacular what they did in a week," Nathan said. "The house looks amazing. I really love it."

When they first saw the house, Nathan described what it looked like to her.

"She loves how they made accommodations for her blindness," Nathan said.

Architect Nick Hildebrandt of StruXture Architects said the house is super-insulated and has geothermal heating and cooling.

"We wanted to build a sustainable home," he said.

The Gibbs' kids said their relatives took part in a motorcycle ride organized by Waukon Harley-Davidson Oct. 8 to benefit the project. More than 600 people rode or participated in the ride from Waukon to West Union. As a part of the Extreme Makeover building project, a Kawasaki that belonged to Audrey's late husband, Jon, was restored by J & P Cycles of Anamosa. His picture is painted on the gas tank.

Tami Brincks of Calmar has worked with Northeast Iowa Helping Hands, the local group formed to recruit volunteers and raise funds for the project. She assisted in completing Gibbs' final application and was part of the contractor team working behind the scenes.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Brincks. "I've never done anything like this. It has been a wonderful experience. Audrey is thrilled, but she's ready for a little bit more normal life. She's not about a lot of attention."