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Paul Brandts Build it Forward

November 17, 2010

Housing industry joins Paul Brandt in the Build It Forward initiative

It could be taken from one of Paul Brandt's own songs: "The best things around that I have ever seen came from small towns and big dreams."

This is certainly one of the best things.

The Build It Forward initiative is about making the world a better place by constructing homes for 14 families thanks to the popular country music singer -- along with help that includes several local homebuilders and developers, along with Habitat for Humanity-Calgary, the Calgary Homeless Foundation and Samaritan's Purse.

Country Music Television will be broadcasting the experience as the Build It Forward TV series, which aims to be aired in spring 2011.

"The Build It Forward movement means we will walk alongside families, helping them get good, modest homes," says Brandt.

He is spearheading the charity event, which has already started constructing homes for seven Calgary-area families.

Five homes are to be built in the city, itself, along with two in Cochrane.

Recipients of the homes are to "pay it forward" by helping build homes for seven other families in a Third World country.

"The response from the community has already been so positive," says Brandt, adding that several businesses have stepped up with donations of time and money. "And the builders and developers jumped on board quickly."

The Canadian homes are to be built in New Brighton, Evanston and Cranston in Calgary, as well as in Heritage Hills in Cochrane.

The builders are Baywest Homes, Jayman MasterBuilt, Stepper Custom Homes and Broadview Homes, while the developers are Carma Developers, Harmony Park Developments Corp. and Qualico Communities.

The residential construction industry has always supported various charities and shelter-related agencies, giving back to the community in big ways.

"We understand the importance of having a home within a strong community," says Larry Noer, vice-president of Jayman MasterBuilt. "Building homes is what we do best, so this program is a natural fit with our core competency."

Tradespeople and supplier partners of the homebuilding industry have also stepped forward with cash donations, time, services and products.

"It is no surprise that our construction trades jumped on board," says Graham Boyce, president and chief operating officer of Jayman MasterBuilt. "It's the perfect opportunity for them to contribute in a very hands-on way rather than just cutting a cheque."

One of the "coolest comments" about the project came from Baywest Homes, says Brandt. "They said: 'It's the right thing to do, so we just have to do it. We want to walk alongside the families.'"

That's echoed by Janine Holman, assistant design manager for Baywest Homes, who is heading up the Build It Forward project for the builder.

"We are very family-oriented and close -- and we all give back with how involved we are with the United Way," she says.

"But this is actually building the home, getting to know the families and seeing the impact it makes on someone's life. Right off the get-go, it sounded like an amazing project and we're all thrilled to be involved."

The homes are basic, solid, two-storey designs similar to the type of homes Habitat for Humanity builds, says Leslie Tamagi, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity-Calgary.

"At Habitat, we believe every family has the right to a simple, decent and affordable place to live -- and this is a very exciting project that builds on Habitat's model of a hand up, not a hand out, that will benefit seven additional families."

And that's where the plan differs from other reality shows on TV, says Brandt.

"We want to build a community long term."

On some of the other home and renovation TV shows, houses are unsustainable and too big, with too many costly twists -- such as swimming pools -- for families of modest incomes, he says.

Some families may need some help in learning how to maintain a home and become part of a new community, says Brandt.

"The infrastructure is in place, but we're not just saying, 'Here's your house. See you later.'"

Build It Forward will continue to follow up with the families for an extended period -- helping them with everything from landscaping to transitioning the children to their new homes and schools.

The project has already teamed with local support groups, such as church congregations.

"Moving takes a lot of adjustment," says Brandt. "We want to set this up right."

Other sponsors include law firm Burnet Duckworth and Palmer, Husky Energy, RBC and The Vintage Fund, the charity wing of Willow Park Wines and Spirits.

Habitat for Humanity-Calgary has undertaken the initial screening of families to find the right ones to fit the project's criteria.

But Build It Forward will have the final selection decision.

Families have yet to be chosen. They must fit the next step of the unique project -- travelling to a Third World country to help build homes for other families there, an idea that Brandt and his wife, Liz, thought up, themselves.

The project was spawned when Brandt and his wife were watching an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. "I was bawling my eyes out and I thought: 'Wouldn't it be cool do a show that allowed me to build houses to give away?'"

As fate would have it, Country Music Television called the next day to ask Brandt if he would be interested in doing just that.

"I jumped on board, and Liz and I thought about what that dream could be -- and we thought: 'What if we could pair that with these same families building houses, in turn, for people in a Third World country?'"

The Calgary-area families will work with Samaritan's Purse, travelling to an as-yet-undetermined country to assist in the construction of those homes.

Haiti and Mexico are currently on the top of the list of possible sites.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," says Scott Henuset, owner of Corkscrew Media, a local company producing the TV series.

"We think this is the beginning of something great. We're hoping to sweep through the country with this and in a few years, we could have a couple of hundred homes built."

Calgary was the logical place to start, says Brandt, who grew up in the city and who is set to launch his new charity foundation, priceless.

"One of the things I love about Calgary is that it tends to be populated by people who want something better," he says. "The spirit here is part of its roots -- and that's its strength."

Tamagi praised the support the project is receiving from Calgary's homebuilding industry.

"The support and enthusiasm of the builders, developers and tradespeople has been absolutely amazing as they each contribute significantly to accomplishing the goal of homeownership that will change the lives forever of these families and generations of children to come," she says.

"It's all about building homes and building hope -- and by raising the profile of this very successful model and the positive impact homeowership has, many more families will benefit."

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

PROJECT: Build It Forward, an initiative spearheaded by country singer Paul Brandt. Seven Calgaryarea families will have homes built for them. In turn, those seven families will travel to a Third World country to help construct homes for seven other families. The building of five homes in Calgary and two in Cochrane has already started. The Build It Forward TV show is to be aired on Country Music Television (CMT) in spring 2011.

PARTNERS: Samaritan's Purse, the Calgary Homeless Foundation and Habitat for Humanity-Calgary, along with Jayman MasterBuilt, Stepper Custom Homes, Broadview Homes and Baywest Homes. Developers are Carma Developers, Qualico Communities and Harmony Park Developments. Other volunteer organizations include law firm Burnet Duckworth and Palmer, Husky Energy, RBC and The Vintage Fund, the charitable wing of Willow Park Wines and Spirits.

INFORMATION: Visit www.paulbrandt.com.The website for the project, itself, is being readied for launch a

www.builditforward.ca.Brandt will also be on Twitter and Facebook