‘Extreme’ dedication

Don Hickman wasn’t entirely certain what he was getting into at the end of 2009 when he agreed to help out on an “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” project in Gainesville, Fla.

Doing business since 1998 as Hickman Metal Roofing, Hickman says he got a tip from a local business contact who had learned that “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was coming to Gainesville.

Most of television-viewing America is familiar with ABC-TV’s popular reality series. Each week, the show focuses on a deserving family facing enormous personal challenges and whose home has fallen into serious disrepair. In many cases, the family itself is known around town as generous contributors to the good of the community.

Soon, an army of producers, designers, builders and contractors descends on the property and, in seven days, tears down the family’s dilapidated house and replaces it with a fully decorated, custom-designed home.

Hundreds of workers and suppliers volunteer their time and materials, working around the clock to complete the project before the family returns from a vacation provided by “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

No stranger to community projects and worthy causes, Hickman was intrigued by the idea of getting involved. His company pitches in when youth baseball fields need concession stands and dugouts and when school programs need a boost.

Community service is part of the culture Hickman nurtures in his business. He says he learned the virtue from his father and he works hard to pass on the tradition of service set by his dad’s example. So he said yes to the “extreme” project.

Hickman says, “We didn’t know what kind of task it would be. We had no specifics until just before we got started.”

Muscle behind the metal
Meanwhile, Hickman contacted his supplier, Metal Sales Manufacturing Corp., the Louisville, Ky.-based maker of quality metal roof and wall panels. Metal Sales, too, got on board eagerly, offering to donate the materials needed.

It was up to Hickman to recruit his crew of installers. The Hickman roofing team — 11 strong — showed up for a 1 p.m. Friday start and worked throughout the night to install the metal roof on the project. High-powered work lights blazed while TV cameras rolled and the whole job site was alive with activity.

Hickman points out that his crew worked until 3 a.m., even though it meant giving up their weekend to participate. While they were on the clock, Hickman says, the crew gave more than they were paid for, putting their time, energy and hearts into the job.

Although the job turned out to be bigger than the crew anticipated, Hickman  says his people were “all in” and “on board” from the start. “They understood it was a good thing to do,” says Hickman.

In Louisville, Metal Sales people were more than ready to get involved in the project, too.

Steve Letnich, Metal Sales’ VP of Sales and Marketing, stated that Metal Sales Manufacturing donated the highly efficient Pro Panel II materials. It’s Energy Star-rated, with Cool Roof ColorFast 45 paint technology in Burnished Slate, and it’s covered with a 45-year warranty.

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” standard procedures demand that only the highest quality materials are selected by the project’s architects. All the contractors and installers come highly recommended, based on a history of superior work.

Metal Sales, too, recognizes that it was a compliment to be included.

While Metal Sales has been involved in similar projects in the past, Letnich  says this was dramatically larger than some  prior commitments.

Would he do it again?
Hickman admits that getting into a project of this size is costly in all respects — time, labor, commitment — but it is extremely rewarding, too. Hickman Metal Roofing’s website helps tell the story of the adventure that began when ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and its star, Ty Pennington, came to Gainesville.

Hickman says his business “rose to the occasion and donated blood, sweat and tears” as well as more than 264 man hours, installing 5,500 feet of product on the job. At retail prices, the roofing project is valued at $20,000, says Hickman.

“The entire project was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he says.

While it’s not something most small businesses can afford to do on a regular basis, Hickman says he’d do it again — but not right away.

Hickman currently employs 17 people, including his crew of 11 installers. Still, he says, that’s half of the force he had two years ago. “But we’re doing OK,” he adds, noting that business is picking up again following the national economic downturn.

It felt good to be part of a worthy project, Hickman says, and there’s some local benefit in the publicity that comes with the “extreme” notoriety. It’s good for his company’s reputation, he says, and it’s good for the community.

Intangible benefits
On that point, Letnich concurs. Metal Sales Manufacturing, he says,  enjoys the public relations boost that accrues from being listed in “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” show credits, gets some mileage out of press releases when they’re picked up by various print media and, from a corporate standpoint, the involvement is taken by the community as evidence of good corporate citizenship.

Metal Sales, like large and small companies everywhere, gets many requests for donations and partnerships in worthwhile projects. “”We evaluate all the opportunities that are presented to us,” Letnich says. “We look at the need and their merit.”

Some of those needs, including support for Komen for the Cure and others, bring participation by company employees in all 20 communities where Metal Sales is located.

Giving back’
“Giving back to the community” is a recurring theme in Rural Builder pages. If you know a contractor, manufacturer or supplier whose gifts to the community are examples of outstanding generosity and commitment to improving life for those in need, contact the editor at renee.russell@fwmedia.com

Read more about it
Read the story of Tobin and Jill Wagstaff family’s home makeover and why the Gainesville area community nominated them for the program at www.hickmanmetal.com/

The Emmy award-winning reality program “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” in its seventh season, is produced by Endemol USA, division of Endemol Holding. It’s executive-produced by Anthony Dominici. David Goldberg is chair of Endemol North America. The show airs Sundays from 8 to 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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