By Amy Blakely
If you watch ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, you may have seen the story of a UT Knoxville sociology alumna whose family’s construction company led more than 3,200 volunteers in building a house for a needy family. The show aired on December 13, 2009. This is the rest of the story:
Anne Maleno (Knoxville ’91) and her family were so moved by their involvement in the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project that they’ve found a way to keep on giving even though the TV cameras are long gone.
Maleno is the property manager for Maleno Development, a company founded in 1976 by her father. The company has built more than a thousand homes and apartments in the Erie, Pennsylvania, area.
“There are seven kids in our family, five of whom are involved in the company,” Maleno said. “My father wanted us to come together as a family and company to have one charity that we donate to. When we decided to take on the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project, we knew we wanted to keep giving.
“We’ve created the Maleno Family to Family Fund to continue to help families with housing problems,” she said.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
The story began back in the spring of 2009, when Maleno Development first got involved with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
“My younger sister, who also works with Maleno Development, heard that the TV show wanted to come to Erie to do a project, and she e-mailed them saying our company might be interested in helping,” Maleno said.
The TV show contacted the family, asked some questions, and the adventure began.
As the lead builders for the TV show’s project in their town, Maleno Development coordinated more than $1 million in donations. They lined up subcontractors willing to donate time and materials. They organized an army of volunteers.
In seven days, the team built a new handicapped-accessible home for a family whose two-story house had a cracked foundation, a leaky roof, peeling walls, and a faulty sewage line. The matriarch of the recipient family suffers from myasthenia gravis, a degenerative muscular disease, but still runs a nonprofit youth development and family center from her home.
While the construction was under way, Maleno Development also held a book drive, a food drive, and a blood drive. Collected items were donated to a variety of organizations in the Erie area.
The Spirit of Giving
Maleno said her family was overwhelmed by the way their community came together and wanted to keep the spirit of giving alive.
The Malenos launched the Family to Family Fund with the goal of organizing charitable construction projects each year for needy families in the Erie area.
In September, Family to Family did its first project—renovating the home of a 57-year-old widow confined to a wheelchair because of an auto accident. Workers lowered her kitchen sink and rearranged cabinets, provided her with a new front-loading washer and dryer, and made her bedroom wheelchair-accessible.
The Malenos already have started taking applications from families who would like to be helped next.
The Maleno family’s charitable work has been featured on many TV broadcasts in the Erie area and in a feature story in the Manufacturer and Business Association’s Business Magazine.
For more information about the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episode, as well as the company and its charitable projects, see www.malenoextremehome.com.