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Emily Townsend

Emily Townsend
Class of 2016
Communication Studies Major and
Spanish Minor

Emily Townsend had never seen ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” – at least, not until her family was selected by her local community for a makeover of their own.

Based on the spirit of the ABC television show, the project was dubbed “Remodel Mania” and brought together more than 80 volunteers from 120 local companies to remodel Emily’s home in Hampton, Va.

A friend of Emily’s mom, who was on the Remodelers Council, knew the family was experiencing financial difficulties and recommended them for the makeover.

Emily’s dad passed away of malignant melanoma in 1998 when she was four and her brother was two months old. Her mom raised Emily and her brother by herself, working as a medical transcriptionist in a cramped corner of the kitchen.

The family – told they were going to get a new kitchen and bathroom – packed up the whole house and stored everything in the garage and on a large truck.

The trio then moved to a hotel down the road for a week. Local restaurants provided tickets to eat in their establishments. A favorite, Anna’s Italian Restaurant, invited them to dinner every evening. The family was given vouchers for lunch.

Upon returning home for the reveal, Emily and her family were in for a huge surprise – the whole house was remodeled. Everything was brand new, including a new stove, refrigerator and washer and dryer.

“There were only two pieces of furniture that I recognized from before,” said Emily. “One was a really big cedar chest that went with the theme of our living room. The other one was a vanity my dad bought for my sister, who is 18 years older than me, and she gave it to me when I was in middle-school. I refused to put it on the truck.” Realizing the sentimental value it held for Emily, the organizers re-upholstered the chair and painted the vanity to match her room.

Not only did “Remodel Mania” drastically change the inside of the house, the show also put its mark on the outside by installing a new roof, redoing the driveway, creating a flower garden and putting in a new lawn. The show also built a doghouse for the family’s dogs.

Emily, who was recruited for the Bridgewater College swim team, had been swimming at the local pool since the age of five. A lot of people she learned to know at the pool volunteered their time and talents working on Emily’s home.

Swimming became Emily’s life. At the age of 10, she began swimming competitively, then she joined her high school team, was a member of the summer league team and started club swimming at the age of 14.

The family enjoys sharing their “new” home with others, including Emily’s high-school graduation party and college going-away parties.

Someday Emily would like to pay the experience forward by being a volunteer on a home remodel for another family.

“I would like to see deserving people get what they deserve,” she said. “My mommy worked really hard and was never able to take care of the house because she was too busy taking care of us.”