CRANFORD, NJ – A request rooted in a mother’s love, a positive review written on a job well done, a telephone call answered and the desire to give back brought a few local businesses and a national TV show together.
Cranford resident and owner of Cranford-based TimberRidge Construction Anthony Carbone is the first to admit, he rarely answers the phone when it rings at the office; his staff does. In March when the phone rang at the Timber Ridge office, the staff was occupied and Carbone saw NBC Universal come up on the caller ID, he answered. Andrew Bank, recruiter for the home makeover show “George to the Rescue” was on the other end and wanted to know if Carbone would be interested in a charitable makeover.
“Everyone is looking for a way to give back and when this opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t say no,” Carbone said.
Positive reviews, one in particular about timing on HOUZZ.com, caught Bank’s attention, he said, so he reached out to Carbone, who committed and went along with Bank to meet the Lissade family of Plainfield; Dad Claude, Mom Robbie, 13-year-old Nye (who is autistic with a second-grade verbal level and quiet) and four-year-old full-of-energy Evan.
“Once you meet the family, you can’t help but want to help,” Carbone said of the initial visit.
For George Oliphant, host of “George to the Rescue," this was his 76th makeover. The connections he makes with these contractors and families last a lifetime, he said.
“Every time I do a rescue my family gets bigger. We begin as strangers. By the end, I wouldn’t hesitate to call up Anthony and say ‘Hey, how’s it going?' and get together," Oliphant said.
Oliphant loves “surprise day” when they have no idea the rescue is coming.
"It is totally organic," he said. The host admited that his favorite is “reveal day," when the family sees the renovation for the first time.
“It always exceeds their expectations, as well as my own, which are very high,” Oliphant said.
Mom Robbie was the one to write into the show. She wanted to transform old basement into a multipurpose play/entertainment space for sons and her husband.
“Claude is an incredible husband and dad and deserves it and to give the kids a safe space to play," she explained.
The basement of the more than 100 year-old house was a throwback to the 60’s with a dropped ceiling, asbestos floor tiles, a concrete bar, poles in the center and a decrepit half bath with a toilet and no sink, Bilco doors that leaked every time it rained. The space served many purposes; an “office” for Claude, which consisted of a recliner and a coffee table; the family playroom; a laundry room where you couldn’t open the dyer and the washer at the same time.
Carbone reached out to his sub-contractors in hopes he would get a few to be part of the project. A project that would have a window of three weeks to be completed.
“Every one of them said yes without hesitation, they all donated their time, talent and supplies," Carbone said.
He enlisted the help of some Cranford businesses, including: Chapman Brothers – Bill Chapman for all the plumbing labor and materials and Blue and Gold A/V – Bob Bruns for labor and materials.
Other area businesses included Kenilworth Drywall – Ralph Dyke for all the sheetrock, spackle and tape labor; Also from Kenilworth; Guido Montero for paint, wallpaper and labor and Paz and Co. – Chris Pazienza for installation of the Bilco doors; along with Westfield- based K. Abrams Architect – Kenneth Abrams for the architectural plans and services.
Carbone pointed out that Huston Lumber and Supply donated all of the construction material need for the renovation. For a list of the contractors who donated visit the TimberRidge website at www.trcnj.com
The renovation included: a safe space for Nye and Evan, including a southpaw chair and a banquette area for Nye to do his work and crafts; an separate office space for Claude with a large desk and storage; an eating space complete with a table and chairs; a built-in bookcase equipped with games, movies and toys; a laundry room with enough space to open the doors; a new bathroom complete with toilet and sink and new Bilco doors leading into the basement.
Upon the reveal the family seemed overwhelmed by it all.
“Thank you so much. We are so grateful for all of your hard work. You have helped change his life,” Robbie said.
Knowing that her husband and children now have a space that is safe, clean and beautiful, she said, “I can’t wait to tell people to go ahead downstairs. It’s something so beautiful.”
Of his new office space, Claude said, “I now have a great office space to work in, when I work from home.” The boys, Nye and Evan, then chimed in with a big “Thank you!”
Acknowledging the challenges they face every day raising an autistic child, her emotion was palpable when she saw Nye hugging those who gave him his new space.
“We are so happy and to see Nye hugging all of you, means more than anything because he is so quiet, you are all part of our family now,” Robbie said.
Carbone commented on the renovation, “It seemed daunting at first, but the NBC people were great to work with, all of the people that were involved went that extra step to make it successful.”
The “George to the Rescue” Lissade episode is set to air this September.