Harford couple thanks benefactors on 'Oprah'

January 06, 1996|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For Michael and Trisha Covelly, the invitation to appear as guests on the "Oprah Winfrey" show was yet another of many gifts they have received since an electrical fire destroyed their Harford County home last January.

"I'm going on the show to say thank you to all of the people who helped us," says Mrs. Covelly, before leaving for the show's taping in Chicago. "We've been blessed by God in so many ways."

She and her husband, both 43, will appear in a show titled "The Kindness of Strangers," scheduled to air on WBAL-Channel 11 at 4 p.m. on Monday.

The couple -- who lost everything in the fire and didn't have enough insurance to repair or rebuild their home -- will tell the story of the old-fashioned "house-raising" organized for them by a passer-by they had never before met, and with the help of other members of the rural community and its churches.

For a week last spring, their eight-acre lot in Street became a busy construction site as scores of strangers, neighbors, relatives and friends donated their time to build the framework for a new, three-bedroom Cape Cod-style home. Additional well-wishers donated food, clothing and money. "The whole heart of this project has been that if you do it for someone else, you do it for the Lord," Mrs. Covelly said. "I just want to spread that word."

Just before the holidays, the couple was invited to appear on the talk show after producer David Boul heard of their story in a nationwide search for published accounts of individuals who received assistance from strangers.

"We were impressed by the way the community reached out and the speed at which they did it," says Jill Almquist, assistant publicist for the "Oprah Winfrey" show. "Everyone rallied to help them."

With 20 to 40 volunteers each day, exterior and interior walls and the roof were in place by the end of the first week. The Covellys hired subcontractors to finish the interior. Mr. Covelly, a mason, built the foundation and chimney and laid nearly 15,000 bricks after work and on weekends. The house is finished and the couple celebrated Christmas there with their children, Bess, 18, and Graham, 13.

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