Nicole Amesti of Massapequa was starting a new chapter in life as the new mother of twins when her husband, Jim, lost his battle with colon cancer last year, months after she gave birth.
The twins, Abigail and Jack—who turn 2 in October—had been sharing a nursery in the two-bedroom, two-story Cape-Cod-style house on Maple Street since their father’s passing shelved plans to turn the unfinished upstairs into a master bedroom for the parents. But as quickly as tragedy left the 35-year-old mother widowed and her children fatherless, an angel with a TV crew answered her prayers one sunny morning in July.
“I know about the house, the twins…I’m here to rescue you,” George Oliphant, host of NBC’s hit home renovation show George to the Rescue, told Nicole when she opened a knock at the door to find the surprise news with the Long Island Press exclusively in tow.
“You have no idea what this means,” replied a beaming Amesti, who was planning to move into the basement to allow the twins to each have their own room. “He’s going to give you your own room!” she excitedly told her son as she held him in her arms and the family’s brown puggle, Fred, barked at the camera crew.
Oliphant, who’s has been rescuing people unable to afford home renovations for four seasons, similarly saved a widow in the Sept. 21 season premier whose house—the only one on the Nautical Mile in Freeport—was flooded in Superstorm Sandy a year ago.
Three weeks after Amesti and her two tots moved back in with her parents to let the crew work, she returned Sept. 13 to find her house transformed, clouds parting just in time for her close-up during the reveal. Her two downstairs bedrooms converted into idealized childrens’ rooms—pink and doll-filled for Abby, brown and sports-themed for Jack. The upstairs “sanctuary” resembles a four-star hotel room—including an elegant full bathroom—with no signs of the rafters and bare floorboards, effectively doubling the living space of the house.
“The selling point was the space up there,” Nicole recalls. “When we bought the house, it was our dream.”
Despite much help from her mother, Rose, and Jim’s parents, Tony and Marie Amesti, the second-floor renovation required more work and money than could fit into the family’s budget.
Roslyn Heights-based interior designer Deborah Baum, who says she relished the chance to “really get creative,” estimates she and a half dozen other companies donated a combined $150,000 worth of time and materials to renovate the four rooms.
“We’re giving her a boutique hotel space…modern, everything she needs,” adds Baum.
The remodeling team includes Rob Shapiro of Glen Cove-based Square One Construction, closet designer Jayne Hirshman of West Babylon’s A & G Designs, Jericho-based Fancy Fixtures, PR Painting of Oakdale, East Moriches-based MTS Plumbing & Heating, Workroom Creations of Port Washington, Hicksville-based Lunar Electric, Elegant Tile & Marble of Nebraska and North Carolina-based Angie’s Closets. Broadway Gourmet Deli in Massapequa catered the crew.
Shapiro of Square One says he was glad to lend a helping hand, because Amesti is “someone who truly deserves it.”
Nicole gasps when she walks into her daughter’s girly new room, the first she lays eyes on after the renovations. The sight of her late husband’s Yankees, Jets and Broncos caps hanging on the wall of her son’s room brings her to tears.
“It’s alright to cry,” George tells her.
She replies: “Does anybody not cry on this show?”
After the crew finishes filming and friends and relatives fill the house to celebrate the renovations with champagne, Jim’s best friend, Ernie Weber, pauses to reflect on family photos hanging in the living room showing the couple on their wedding day, at Disney World and in Rockefeller Center.
The 41-year-old Oyster Bay town worker from Massapequa recalls Jim’s last words to Nicole: “Are you going to be okay?” Jim had remained upbeat despite his diagnoses but worried about how his family would go on without him. “Now he’s smiling down ‘cause they’re gonna be alright,” Weber says.
“I’ll have a great place of my own to start a new chapter in our lives,” says Amesti. “I’m excited, shocked, thrilled.”
Oliphant adds that his show is about more than just ratings. It’s about family.
“It’s not just the job, it’s the energy, it’s the people,” he says. “You could feel the energy, the excitement—you could feel Jim’s presence over the house…It’s sad the reason we’re here, but I’m glad we were able to turn it into something positive.”
The episode featuring the Amesti family is schedule to air at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 on NBC.