Approximately 100 McBride and Sons Homes employees wearing colorful company hardhats cheered Friday morning as a steel bucket bit off chunks of Shawn Hornbeck's house.
In less than one-half hour, the three-bedroom brick house was demolished, making way for construction of a new, $300,000 home McBride is building to give to Shawn and his parents, Pam and Craig Akers of Richwoods. McBride CEO John Eilermann said the new home should be ready for occupancy in 90 days.
“More than 100 people are going to be working on this around the clock,” he said. “This is going to be a fun project.”
The Akers and Shawn were in seclusion on Friday, but Shawn's grandmother broke ground at his request. “Grandma” Dorris Duff, scooped a shovelful of clay colored dirt just before the backhoe took its first bite of the house.
“It has been an unbelievable four-and-a-half-years,” Duff said. “This is just great! I don't know what else to say.”
Eilermann said the company wanted to do something to show its appreciation to the Akers for their work with other families of missing children. The family had depleted its savings for the Foundation, and the employees wanted to find a way to help them get back on their feet.
They quickly came up with a solution - they would build the family a new home, free from bad memories. The house would include office space for the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation.
Shari Frazier, a sales representative for Mattingly Lumber and sister to Shawn's mother, Pam Akers, spends a lot of time at McBride, Eilermann said.
“She's part of the McBride family, along with John (Mattingly) and John Jr.,” he explained. “The employee-owners have been supportive since Shawn's disappearance, and when we heard about the miracle (of his Jan. 12 rescue), they wanted to get together and do something for the family.
“What better thing could we do for them than to build them a home?”
Frazier said she couldn't believe it when her boss called to tell her of the plan. She shared the proposal with her sister, Craig and Shawn.
“They were overwhelmed,” Frazier said. “They knew there are good people out there, but they just couldn't believe how they have all come together.”
The new brick house will have four bedrooms, three baths and a two-car garage. The first floor of the ranch will be about 1,800 square-feet, compared to the 800 or so usable square feet in the old home. The new home will include office space in the basement for the Foundation, although details have not been finalized.
The Akers will choose much of the décor, but there will be some surprises, Eilermann said. Furniture stores and other businesses that do business with McBride have offered to donate items, and people across the country have approached the company with offers to help, he added.
The new house will have an estimated market value of $300,000, estimated Rob Eilermann, marketing director for McBride. The previous home had an assessed value of $40,700, according to Washington County Assessor's Records.
“It won't be ostentatious,” Rob Eilermann said of the new house. “There are other homes around here of similar size.”
State Rep. Belinda Harris, D-Hillsboro, took part in the groundbreaking ceremony.
“I think it's great that McBride and Sons are doing this,” she said. “Shawn and his family need a new start. This will be a home with no bad memories.”
The event drew volunteers in the search for Shawn, including Janet Martin of Mineral Point and Kathy Dean of Cadet. The women said they provided food and helped search for Shawn after his Oct. 6, 2002 disappearance. Together, they made thousands of orange ribbons that brought in about $6,000 for the Foundation, the women estimated.
Although neither has met Shawn, the women said they showed up on Friday because it is important that Shawn know he is loved and cared about.
The now demolished house was Shawn's home from the time he was a baby until he was abducted. Frazier said the donation of a new house is a little bittersweet for the family, but the Akers and Shawn are focused on moving forward.
“Shawn said this is home,” Frazier explained. “But as sad as it is to see his home torn down, he agrees it's time for something new.”