'The View' honors Triangle builder

Staff WriterOctober 14, 2009 

— A local homebuilder has been named "The Ultimate Volunteer" by ABC television's "The View" for inspiring builders in North Carolina and across the country to construct as many as 1,000 homes for Habitat for Humanity since 2002.

People who know him say Tom Gipson is as good at building relationships as he is at building houses, something he's done since 1977.

"He has a quiet persistence about him," said Tim Minton, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, who nominated Gipson for the honor. "He's one of the most determined individuals I've ever met. I'm sure there were times when the door was closed, and he just went to the next door, and kept knocking and knocking and knocking."

Gipson and Minton will travel to New York next week to appear on "The View," a live talk show beginning at 11 a.m. each weekday and hosted by several women, including Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg. Gipson said winning the contest and going on the show will give him another venue in which to tout the work Habitat does and to prod builders' groups to schedule home-building blitzes of their own.

Gipson, who builds million-dollar homes through his company, Thomas Gipson Homes Inc., decided in 2002 to take on a different kind of construction project. He wanted to build a dozen Habitat homes in a week, using the skills of professional builders and donated materials, saving Habitat all but the cost of land and infrastructure. The materials alone are worth $75,000 or more, depending on the size of the home, Gipson said.

When he appealed to local builders, 11 agreed to help, offering their own labor and bringing their contractors and subcontractors along. Working from dawn to dusk Monday through Friday for one week in November 2002, they laid foundations, framed walls and nailed roofing trusses. By the end of the week, the houses were carpeted and landscaped, ready for their new owners.

"It's not magic for a group of professional builders to do this," said Gipson, who found that by having all the pieces in place it's possible to condense the construction process into five days rather than, say, five months.

He has since told countless builders' groups around the country how to do it. With a few adjustments for local climate and building styles, the same approach can be taken anywhere, Gipson said. After taking a few months to get everything lined up, Gipson said, builders can take just a week off from their regular jobs and make a lasting contribution to their communities.

Eventually, Gipson said, he hopes to organize a national builders' blitz in which 1,000 Habitat homes go up in a week. He said he still gets excited when he sees the looks on the faces of children who are moving into the first home their family has ever owned.

Nancy Jones, director of development and communications for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, said Gipson's selection as "The Ultimate Volunteer" will help highlight the work builders do.

"It's great for people to see what can be accomplished when we work together," Jones said.

martha.quillin@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8989

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