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Neighborhood embraces chaos

POPULAR COMMUNITY - Seival Goings nearly has a front-row seat of the action unfolding on the set of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Goings - a 1977 graduate of North Myrtle Beach High with Renee Wilson, the Horry County woman receiving a new home courtesy of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and the hundreds of volunteer builders - has only to open her blinds to view progress of the five-bedroom house rising on an adjacent lot just across the dirt road.

"I couldn't sleep with all the banging and the commotion going on, and it's a lot of excitement, but I'm very happy for Renee," said Goings, a longtime friend and neighbor. "It's a blessing coming to her."

Most of the neighbors surrounding the new construction are either related to Wilson or are her friends. They say they don't mind the multitude of trucks and pedestrians parading past their homes and are finding ways to embrace it.

Goings, for example, has reached out, inviting a woman and her young child in for a snack and carrying home-cooked meals to some of the security and police officers.

Goings said she knows what it's like to get a blessing. "When I got my home here, it was a Habitat [for Humanity] house."

The biggest inconvenience Goings has encountered has been the tight security stationed at the only two accesses into the small neighborhood near the intersection of Andrews Road and S.C. 90.

"The only problem has been for the people coming to see me," she said. "But I just go talk to them, and they let them in."

Kathy Chestnut and her mother, Eunice Chestnut, also live in the neighborhood. The women said they don't mind the controlled chaos. Motorists have used their driveway to turn around or pull in for a quick peek.

"I just stay in my house and let other people come and look," Kathy Chestnut said.

"It's just so amazing to me to watch," Eunice Chestnut said. "I gazed so much at it yesterday, I couldn't sleep. I am so excited for Renee. They really needed this."

Many in this small rural community about 25 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach, like the Goings and Chestnuts, are united in their elation for the Wilson family, who had been living in cramped conditions in a worn-out, two-bedroom mobile home since Renee Wilson took in her four young grandchildren nearly three years ago.

The boys - Hakeem, 10, Timothy, 8, and R.J., 7 - have had to share a bedroom and closet. Erica, 5, slept with her grandmother.

The Rev. J.R. Matthews, pastor of Wilson's church, Chesterfield Missionary Baptist Church, spoke of Wilson's good fortune during Sunday morning worship service, which evoked applause from the congregants.

"Thank God for his blessings from unlikely places," Matthews said. "We sometimes get upset when God blesses other people and wonder when it will happen for us. But let us not be upset and share in the blessing. Renee has been having hard times. God sees. God knows. God hears. And God will do something."

While the show's stars are mum on how each of the children's rooms will look, Preston Sharp, a designer and furniture maker, offered hints about Hakeem's space. Hakeem has been described by friends and teachers as an avid reader.

"In kids' rooms, I design everything," Sharp said. "I'll be doing his bed, a desk, a dresser, a table, a revolving bookcase, a custom book shelf unit. He'll have a chaise lounge for him to read. I wanted to do something to inspire him to keep reading. He is an intelligent little boy."

As of late afternoon Sunday, volunteers had framed the house, erected exterior walls and were setting trusses to prepare for roofing as hundreds of spectators - many equipped with cameras and binoculars - rotated in and out on shuttles to watch them work and catch sight of the ABC TV show's stars. Ty Pennington, the show's highly animated host, has been sporadically absent from the set as he travels out of state to another shoot happening simultaneously.

When he does appear, however, he's greeted by cheering fans. Midday Sunday, Pennington - dressed in jeans, an off-white oxford and a hard hat - waved and smiled at excited fans on the way to shoot a scene in front of the new house, where he climbed a ladder and clung to roof trusses.

Pennington's voice was inaudible because of the humdrum of construction machinery, but his flailing arms and expressive face in front of the cameras captivated his fans.

"He's so cute," said Ann Quigley of the Carolina Forest community, peering through binoculars. "Be careful up there, Ty."

Around-the-clock building continues through late Wednesday.

The Wilson family will return to a finished house on Thursday.