|By Ann Coppola, News Reporter|
A Pennsylvania corrections officer and his family recently received the thrill of a lifetime thanks to ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Frank Slaughter is a full time supervising sergeant at the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh, where he runs the jail’s level five unit for hospital, mental health, and special needs inmates. Ironically, Slaughter spent a few days as a young man incarcerated in Allegheny County, before turning his life around.
“The same jail I was incarcerated in is the same jail I work in now to prove a point that you don’t have to stay where you are,” Slaughter says on the show, “that you can motivate yourself or hang around somebody that’s going to motivate you, teach you, and guide you into doing what you need to do to be successful in this life.”
The makeover show chose the Slaughter family because they are also leaders in their community. Sergeant Slaughter works on helping inmates get jobs inside the jail so thye will have the skills they need to obtain jobs outside of the facility. He also serves as the deacon of his church, while his wife Tracy runs a preschool out of their house for the children of struggling single mothers.
“I just want to jump in there and do whatever I can do to help people get where they need to be,” Slaughter says. “I just want to see the person that comes across my life be affected in a positive way, to be able to realize they can overcome. And whatever it takes to do that, I want to do that.”
The Slaughters have four daughters and a son, ages three to 15 years old. Before the renovation, the family’s home was in rough shape. With only 1,000 square feet, two bedrooms, and one bathroom for seven people to share, the tiny house was ideally suited for two or maybe three people.
The house also suffered severe structural damage: one side of the house was wrapped in a tarp due to heavy water damage, and the other was wrecked by a tornado. But the family couldn’t afford the expensive repairs they needed.
It took just one week for famed designer Ty Pennington and his team to build a dream home for the Slaughters. Local builders Montgomery & Rust Inc. and hundreds of volunteers demolished the Slaughter’s old home and built an entirely new 3,200 square foot house complete with furniture, appliances, and landscaping.
Some of the volunteers were former Allegheny inmates Slaughter mentored. And in the spirit of giving back, after the house was demolished the builders recycled and donated any usable materials to Habitat for Humanity.
Many members of the community and current inmates in Slaughter’s unit all praise his compassion and dedication.
“I’ve seen so many guys that didn’t get a second chance, didn’t get a third chance, some guys need more than that,” Slaughter says. “It is so awesome to see someone change for the better. I mean I live for that.”
During the rebuild, the Slaughters were treated to a weeklong vacation in Disney World. As a special surprise, the children even got to meet and hang out with Disney singing group The Cheetah Girls.
When the flurry of construction was finally over, a massive crowd lined the street to watch the Slaughter’s first look at their new house, during the show’s famous “Move that bus!” big reveal.
“I’m 6’1”, 240 pounds, but seeing that crowd come together, I just felt so small,” Slaughter says.
The beautiful new home has plenty of personal touches for the hardworking family. The makeover design team created special themed bedrooms for the kids – a princess room for the youngest two girls, a Cheetah Girls room, a robot decorated room for the son, and a photography themed room for the oldest daughter. The new house also sports a much larger and fully decorated “play place” for the in-home preschool.
Now the corrections officer and family man finally has the house of his dreams to go with the job of his dreams.
“You see the [inmates] coming in at ground zero – they’re broken,” he says. “Drug addiction, alcohol, sickness - a lot of different circumstances they come in with. And to see them recuperate from that and to go full circle, and not come back, and be accountable and responsible, it’s a great feeling. I know that my work is not in vain.”
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