Cast braves cold to help

By Ed Brock

In the frigid cold they came together to make the "House of Dawn" a place anyone would love to call home.

On Sunday they parked their trailers full of power tools and building material in the yard of the humble house on South Main Street in Jonesboro where Dawn Murray will open her shelter for teenage mothers. Volunteers from Home Depot's "Team Depot" and "Hands On Atlanta" worked alongside the cast and crew of television's "Trading Spaces" to paint the walls, lay some tile and anything else that needed doing.

"It's overwhelming. I cried, it was something ? to see how excited and emotional they were," Murray said.

The "Trading Spaces" crew came up with the idea of volunteering for a community project about a month and a half ago, said executive producer Tom Farrell. Each episode of The Learning Channel show focuses on groups of people who redecorate each other's home, so the cast is made up of carpenters, designers and other homebuilding experts.

Farrell said he put out a "feeler e-mail" to see who would be interested in volunteering for such a project, including the show's crew members as well as the professional cast members.

"Pretty much to a man everybody said yes, absolutely, we'll do this," Farrell said. "We all put down our different hats and picked up a paint brush."

Team Depot and Hands On Atlanta are two programs that regularly provide volunteers and, in Home Depot's case, material for community projects around Atlanta. "Trading Spaces" was in town filming an episode, Home Depot spokesman Ron DeFeo said, but the only film crews on hand belonged to local television news stations and Home Depot.

While the work was going on Murray walked around, seemingly in a daze.

"It's cold and they are still going," Murray said. "They're doing everything they can find."

"Trading Spaces" designer Edward Walker and AmyWynn Pastor, one of the show's carpenters, took a break to talk to the Home Depot film crew about the project.

"This was a great opportunity with the holidays coming up for us to get together and do something for others," Walker said.

"I'm just doing this to get off the 'naughty' list," Pastor joked.

Seeing the work getting done was pretty exciting for 18-year-old Tilkilla Render who will stay at the shelter with her 2-year-old son Demarias when the House of Dawn opens, perhaps in January. A ward of the state, Render said if it weren't for Murray she would probably be placed in a separate home from her son.

It was hard for Render to say which part of the renovation she liked the most.

"All of it," Render said. "The kitchen."

Farrell said they put down new tile in the kitchen and were putting in all new appliances. They were also adding new drapes and furniture to the rest of the house.

Murray said Render and a 16-year-old girl will be the first residents of the shelter and after they open, two more girls will be picked. Each girl is interviewed and must demonstrate a willingness to live by the shelter's many rules and regulations.

"Every girl is not ready for this home," Murray said. "They're not ready for rules and regulations. They don't want anybody telling them what to do."

The House of Dawn will be the ninth home in the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention network of Second Chance Homes.