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Mayor's call helps South Kitsap family get 'Makeover' for home

It all began last March, when then 10-year-old Jael Kirkwood of Burley put in a call to Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel.

“I heard this tiny, little voice asking if she could set up a meeting with me,” Abel said, explaining that when she agreed to meet with her, Jael came down to City Hall with her mother, Dawne. “And she just ran the meeting — she had that get-it-done kind of attitude.”

What Jael wanted to talk to Abel about was her home. It was choked with black mold, making most of the rooms unlivable.

After an unscrupulous contractor left them high and dry, her family had contacted ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” hoping to get chosen for the show, but had never gotten a response.

It had been so long that the rest of the Kirkwoods thought it was a lost cause. “But Jael just wasn’t going to let it die,” Abel said.

Jael told Abel she had tracked down someone from a previous show — “Sweet Alice Harris” — who told her if she really wanted to get her family chosen, she had a number for her to call.

“But Alice told her, ‘You shouldn’t call. You need to get the mayor to call,’” Abel said, explaining that the phone number Jael had was for Matt Plaskoff, a contractor who built homes for previous editions of the show.

“He answered the first time I called,” Abel said, explaining that after she talked to Plaskoff, the ball was officially rolling. And soon producers from the show were contacting the family.

“Jael was just so persistent,” Plaskoff said, explaining that she and her family’s story of being taking advantage of and losing their money must have really struck a chord with the producers to be chosen. “They get 15,000 applications a week.”

While waiting for the final decision, Abel said producers from the show came out to talk to her at least twice, and Jael invited her to the Kirkwood’s home to see the mold.

“As the mold took over, they kept having to move the kids from bedroom to bedroom until they were all in one room,” she said. “They were really in a tight space.”

Abel said she could not have been happier when she learned the Kirkwoods — a family of seven — were chosen for the show, not to mention getting another visit from Jael, who brought the mayor flowers after the big news.

“I am really pleased for them. This is really going to help her family,” she said, adding that Jael called her this week from Disney World, where the family was whisked off to during the construction, to thank her again.

“I told her, ‘No, don’t thank me. You did it.’”

Crews began tearing down the Kirkwood’s house on Spruce Road around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, and staff at Howland Homes — the Seattle contractor hired to build the new home — said hundreds of people will be working “around-the-clock” to finish the new home before the unveiling on Tuesday.

Much of the home is being constructed at the “staging area” at the Port Orchard Airport on Sidney Road, which not only provides workers plenty of room to move around in, but a large hangar to work inside in case of rain.

Surprisingly, Howland Homes owner Matt Howland said hardly any special materials will be used to complete the home so quickly, and that only the sheetrock and concrete — formulated to dry in only two hours — are different than usual.

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