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Great Housekeeping: MHS Key Club home makeover a 'perfect gift'

BRADENTON -- When Manatee High School’s Key Club members first saw the home in the 5800 block of Seventh Street East in Bradenton, they were taken aback.

“Our mouths dropped open,” said junior Mary Elizabeth Woodward.

“I didn’t know anybody could live like this,” said senior Daniel Beeman.

“It definitely needs work,” said junior Hunter Harrison. “A lot of work.”

That’s why 25 MHS Key Club members and several adults were on hand this past weekend.

Taking a cue from ABC’s popular “Extreme Home Makeover,” they began ripping apart the humble dwelling so it could be renovated as part of the club’s own “Extreme Home Keyover.”

Unlike TV’s rapidly rebuilt rendition, this project will take a month.

The Edna Greo family, presently living in a West Bradenton rental, should be in their refurbished three-bedroom, two-bath home by Jan. 1.

“I’m excited to see how it turns out,” said freshman Keenan Hill.

So is Greo.

“What a perfect gift for Christmas,” the 42-year-old woman said. “I’m so grateful.”

When the Key Club decided on this venture, faculty adviser Charlie Mills contacted Jerry Parrish, the YMCA’s at-risk youth director, who suggested the Greo family.

A single mother, she owns the property in Pride Park where crime and poverty are chronic issues. Her house is home to her two children, father, boyfriend and granddaughter.

“The reason I picked this one is she pays her bills, she works hard to make sure this family’s taken care of,” Parrish said. “It’s part of letting people in this neighborhood know they have a future, but that future is up to them. They’ve got to work and work hard for it.”

Greo does, working in an assisted-living facility.

“I didn’t think something like this would ever happen to me,” she said. “I always wanted to fix the place up, but I never had the money.”

Thanks to the Key Club -- and the generosity of almost 25 businesses -- the transformation will take place over the next three weeks.

“We’re looking at doing everything -- new plumbing, new electrical, new heat and air conditioning, new interior and exterior, window treatments, new furniture, new flooring -- just like on TV,” Mills said.

“I’m amazed at the help Bradenton’s been able to give. The companies have taken to us with open arms. They’re happy to help. It’s been incredible.”

The Key Club will supply manpower after school and on the weekends, then finish the project the last week of Christmas break.

“The framers, plumbers and electricians will be in here doing their own stuff daily,” said Woodward, the project chairwoman. “But the last week, ‘Keyover Week,’ everything we can do by ourselves -- landscaping, painting and so forth -- will be done.”

They got off to an impressive start Saturday.

The industrial-sized Dumpster was full by noon.

John Vita, the club’s Kiwanis adviser, said his proteges were seeing what some well-meant heavy lifting means to a community.

“They’re getting to understand the problems some people have and how a little bit of work and people coming together to help can overcome them,” he said.

Matt Walden got the message.

“There are a lot of people out there who are less fortunate, so this feels good,” the sophomore said. “I know how appreciative I’d be if someone did this for me.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.