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'Move that bus!'

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Farmington,Minnesota 55024
Farmington Independent
'Move that bus!'
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

When the Swenson-Lee family returned to their Minnetonka home after a week's vacation in Florida, their home wasn't there anymore, but thousands of people were standing near their lot awaiting the family's arrival.


In place of the old 2,300 square-foot home stood a massive, 5,600 square-foot home with three garages, seven bedrooms, five bathrooms and amazing decking and landscaping.

The family was the recipient this past week of a brand new house, from basement to rooftop, from the ABC show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Hundreds of volunteers, contractors and builders worked for 106 hours under the direction of the lead construction team from Extreme Makeover and TJB Homes from Aug. 21 to Aug. 28 to build a new home for a new family.

More than 250 local businesses contributed finances, materials or manpower to the effort.

The Swenson-Lee family melded in 2006 after Teri Lee and her boyfriend Tim Hawkinson Sr. were murdered in Lee's home by Lee's ex-boyfriend.

After suffering months of domestic violence, Lee had tried to protect herself and her family by taking an order for protection and installing a security system in her home.

Neither effort held off her ex-boyfriend who broke into her home in September 2006 and fatally shot her and Hawkinson.

Lee's four children were left orphaned afterward as their father had died in a single-vehicle car wreck in 2001.

The children, ranging in age from 6 to 13, have since been adopted by their aunt and uncle, Vicki Seliger Swenson and Erik Swenson, who had three children of their own and are expecting a fourth.

The family of nine - soon to be 10 - found themselves immediately cramped for space in the three-bedroom, one bath home they shared. The children slept two and three to a room, with single beds lined up in a row.

Keeping up with maintenance on the house was becoming demanding. There was a plumbing problem that had developed from everyone sharing the only bathroom in the house. The roof needed work.

But, months ago, students of the Swensons, who are teachers at Hopkins High School, nominated the family to get a completely new house from Extreme Makeover.

And on Aug. 21, at about 8 a.m., Ty Pennington and his crew did their trademark "door knock" and bull horn wakeup call. Since then there was a whirlwind of activity at the site on Park Lane in Minnetonka.

Hundreds and hundreds of people offered to help. From the volunteer hours the concrete pourers and framers put in - a full 24.5 hours on the site in a row - to the carpenters, landscapers, painters, building officials, plumbers and electricians, the house was ready by Aug. 28 for the family to make all their own.

"All I can say is it was a amazing," said volunteer Kelly Sawyer. "To watch the hundreds of volunteers working together, getting along, and doing the job they were there to do.

"I heard it explained as controlled chaos and that's exactly what it was. I was with the drywall/spray crew and I'm proud to have been a part of it."

Tears flowed from the family members, crews and spectators as they all yelled "Move that bus" to clear the view of the new house for the Swenson-Lee family.

"I hope the house quickly becomes a home for this deserving family," said Todd Anderson, who helped cater a meal for workers on the overnight shift when the foundation was being poured. "This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life," he said.

Since Lee's murder, Seliger Swenson has worked to improve protections for victims of domestic violence, including helping to get a new law passed in Minnesota that will include a physical description and photograph of the person against whom an order for protection is filed.