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WCVB BOSTON 'Extreme' Commitment

Hearst-Argyle's ABC affiliate in Boston, WCVB, came up with a novel community-related idea that was, to say the least, constructive.

The station updated the network's Extreme Makeover concept, gave it a public-affairs twist and came up with the successful initiative “Extreme Makeover: My Hometown.”

“We patterned it after that show but on the network series, only one family receives the largess,” says Karen Holmes-Ward, WCVB's community service director. “We seek out nonprofits to help so the largess will be throughout the community.”

“My Hometown” has done rebuilding and renovation for numerous places throughout the area. In Newton, the station helped revitalize a home for people with developmental disabilities, installing new kitchens, a landscaped backyard and a resurfaced driveway; in Dorchester, it brought new life to a former mission that provides services to low-income women and their children; and in Worcester, WCVB created a new athletic and education-oriented community center for a Boys & Girls club.

This approach—which, like the show, seeks to turn around a project in a week—relies on volunteers from the station and the participating sponsors, and from people who hear about the event through the station's coverage of it, Holmes-Ward says: “Everybody wants to do something to help other people; they just need a focus.”

WCVB features stories about the projects on its magazine show, Chronicle.

The hardest part is the selection process. Says Holmes-Ward: “As more people hear about it, we are getting more inquiries.”