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Extreme Makeover star Ty Pennington leads RNC delegates in building (half) a house

Ty Pennington, left, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talk before work begins on half a house in Tampa on Tuesday.

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | TIMES

Ty Pennington, left, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talk before work begins on half a house in Tampa on Tuesday.

TAMPA

If you build it, they will help.

That's what design guru Ty Pennington and his support crew found out Tuesday as delegates to the Republican National Convention climbed off buses, donned hard hats and picked up hammers, paint brushes, pipe wrenches and other tools to build half a house.

Yes, half a house.

The finished half-house will be trucked up to Charlotte, N.C., to be joined with its other half to be built by delegates to next week's Democratic National Convention. Once complete, it will be donated to a yet-to-be-named (or chosen, for that matter) deserving military veteran in Charlotte on land donated by the city.

"It's great to see people working together to build something that will change someone's life," said Pennington, star of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

"I've been to every state in the nation," he said. "I see what happens when people put their lives on hold for three hours to help someone else. I've done lots of projects, but this is definitely one of the coolest."

Jerome Ryans, CEO of the Tampa Housing Authority on whose land — the Encore District Development — the homebuilding took place, said, "I'm fascinated with things non-partisan."

In the interest of full disclosure, no one actually built a house from scratch. The shell of a modular home was provided, and more than 200 delegates worked to put on the finishing touches, including the roof and siding.

No worries, either, that the house will be half red and half blue. The Republican volunteers were spotted putting a bluish-gray vinyl siding on the house. They hailed from the District of Columbia and the states of Alaska, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Some delegates were made for the job, like Rob Mortara, a builder (struggling builder, he says) from Flemington, N.J.

Others were there strictly to "give back," like New Jersey delegate Susan Enderly, who organized her state's participation and wrote "We Built This" with electrical tape on the back of her shirt.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was also on hand to help out just hours after singing the praises of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan to Minnesota delegates at their breakfast meeting.

Pennington, looking as always like just a regular guy, said the idea for the appropriately named "House United" program came from Craftsman, one of five sponsors of the event. Others are Sears' Heroes at Home, Tampa Bay Rebuilding Together, NextGen Home by Champion and Bank of America.

"I don't think Tampa's ever seen anything like this before," the 47-year-old TV host said.

And what about his political party allegiance? Which way does he lean?

"On whichever leg is less tired at the time," Pennington said with a smile.

Patti Ewald can be reached at pewald@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8746.

Extreme Makeover star Ty Pennington leads RNC delegates in building (half) a house 08/28/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 11:36pm]
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