St. Jude Dream Home builder knows troubles, triumphs | News
On Sunday at 13WMAZ, we will turn the crank on a ticket hopper, reach in and grab one of 6,500 tickets to the St. Jude Dream Home.
We will read the name of the winner, and that person's life could change in an instant.
But on Friday, that person has no idea what's coming.
Lady luck often delivers surprises. No one knows that better than the builder of the St. Jude dream home.
Jeff Liszewski was down on his luck 15 year ago, struggling to make his own house payments.
He never would have wagered that one day, he'd have the ability to give homes away.
Liszewski has got a good thing going.
He builds every home in the Warner Robins Tiffany neighborhood. He names the streets after his daughters and friends.
Liszewski said, "I've built a very good business."
For the third year in a row, Liszewski's giving away a house to help kids with cancer.
By most standards, he's on top.
In the early 2,000's, he was scraping bottom.
He and his wife were deep in debt, working several jobs and an inch away from filing for bankruptcy.
Liszewski said, "I know what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck, week to week, coming down to two days before you get paid, and you're scrounging for money to eat lunch."
Then, Liszewski worked primarily as a kitchen maintenance man for the Houston County Board of Education.
He said, "I learned air conditioning, electrical."
He picked-up building know-how from his other odd-jobs. Those skills became the foundation for a fledgling construction business.
Liszewski said, "Before I knew it, people were knocking on my doors to build homes."
That included the folks with St. Jude.
They wanted him to build a house. Then, give it away.
He wondered, "How much is it going to cost me? How are my subs going to respond to this?
You see, it's not just Liszewski doing the giving. It's the 40 plus "subs", or sub-contractors. it takes to build a house.
Framers, painters, electricians: They've all been willing to work for nothing more than a St. Jude magnet on their trucks, identifying them as sponsors of the Dream Home.'
Liszewski said, "They're the one's that make this possible. Not me."
He says it's them making the sacrifice year after year.
"The thing that gets me the most is the subs. The subs that struggle the most, are the first one's to give, and it blows my mind," Liszewski said through tears.
He went on to say, "They know what it's like, not necessarily to have a child with cancer, but to struggle and I think sometimes, people lose sight of that."
Not Liszewski. He still relates, remembering his paycheck-to-paycheck dance, and the invaluable reward in giving, even when your bank account says you're barely able.
Liszewski was named the St. Jude Builder of the Year last year. He was chosen from among more than 40 Dream Home builders across the country.
Tickets for the St. Jude Dream home in Warner Robins are sold out. However, 13WMAZ will open the phone lines for donations to St. Jude during the giveaway on Sunday.
The giveaway starts at 11:30 a.m. on 13WMAZ.