A starter home in Huntington Station, owned by a couple with two jobs each and two young kids, got a renovation this summer courtesy of WNBC/4's community-based renovation show "George to the Rescue." The episode, featuring teacher and hospital worker Kimberly Jones and her family, airs Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.
And in this case, it wasn't the first time she and contractor-host George Oliphant had met. "We were honoring health care heroes" earlier this year, says Oliphant, 47, giving them free Optimum cable and internet for a year. Jones, a Huntington Hospital Northwell Health secretary and all-around helping hand on the front line at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, had been enthusiastically recommended by staff there. Arriving at her house to present the prize, Oliphant was both impressed by her family and dismayed at the state of their home.
"It's not a bad house," he says, "but it really could have used a 'George to the Rescue.' I said to my producers that I know we did her as a health care hero but I think we should give her house the full-blown treatment — showcase who Kimberly and her family are, and also show what we can do with a space without extending the footprint" — that is, adding additional square footage.
The producers agreed, and in July Oliphant returned to the tiny three-bedroom home to deliver the news. "When he came back," remembers Jones, 39, chuckling, "I thought he was Amazon making a delivery!"
Working with numerous volunteering local companies, including Annie Mandelkern Interiors, AGD Construction, Bello Architects, the interior demolition firm Vincent's C&D Service and others, the show transformed the cramped, dark space into something open and bright, with a completely renovated kitchen, via Showcase Kitchens, and an eat-in nook — the home previously had no dedicated dining space. Upon seeing the dilapidated yards, Oliphant and company went beyond their usual parameters and did a complete re-landscaping, courtesy of The Grounds Guys.
"I felt like I was in a dream," Jones recalls of the August reveal. "Like, is this for real? Is this someone's vacation home?"
Oliphant says everyone involved was particularly glad to help after learning more about her. With her husband of six years, Israel Mcclaney, an auto mechanic with a catering sideline, Jones has two young daughters. In addition to her 3 to 11 p.m. hospital shift, she works full time as a history teacher at the Bethel Christian Academy of the New Greater Bethel Ministries in Queens. Born in that borough, she grew up primarily on Long Island.
During the desperate pandemic months when families could not visit sick and dying patients, she was a member of Huntington Hospital’s Virtual Visit Champions Program that allowed iPad visits, with hospital staff in patients' rooms facilitating.
"Being able to have the iPad near a patient's face and holding their hand as if you were a family member holding their hand, it was rewarding, letting them be able to see their family," Jones says. "You would have family members crying, and they were just so appreciative that they were able to at least see" their loved ones.
Jones contracted the coronavirus early on, and upon returning to work, "just knowing how horrible I felt, you put yourself in a patient's shoes. And you just feel a sense of urgency to help these patients" — something far from her secretarial duties, but not from her sense of duty. "I was, like, 'I have to help these people. I cannot do nothing.' "