M.J. Stemp may be small, but that doesn’t stop her from tackling big projects.
The 5-foot tall Ashburn resident rolled up her sleeves to produce "Loudoun’s First Ever Home Makeover." The producer of the local television show, "Where’s M.J.?," remodeled Stone Bridge High School teacher John Costello’s Ashburn home.
"It started off as a practical joke," Stemp said. "But it really turned into something special."
John Costello, a physical-education teacher, moved his family of five from New York to Virginia 20 years ago.
John Costello is not only a teacher, but a baseball, basketball and golf coach and president of Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD).
"He is such a great teacher and kids love him," Stemp said. "It was payback time."
FOR SEVERAL MONTHS, Stemp traveled to local businesses asking for donations. Her first stop was Europa Stone Distributors in Sterling. There she met company president Carlos Varela.
"All I had to do was ask," she said. "He was the first person to say yes. He really got the ball moving."
Varela said it was hard to say no to the local producer.
"It was time to give back to the community," Varela said. "It was for a good cause. And it was a lot of fun."
With the help of local businesses like Europa, Ferguson Plumbing and Sterling Carpet, Stemp knew she could pull the home makeover off.
In July, while the Costello’s were on vacation in Williamsburg, Stemp snuck her crew into John Costello’s home.
"Luckily, I knew the garage code," she said.
In just two days, Stemp and her crew installed new carpet in two bedrooms, painted the children’s bathroom and installed a granite countertop in the kitchen.
"You know, it took a village," Stemp said.
WHEN THE COSTELLO’S arrived home, Stemp’s camera crew, friends and neighbors greeted them at the door.
John Costello’s wife, Joanne Costello, was shocked when she walked into her kitchen and saw granite countertop. Her bedroom received a fresh coat of paint and a new carpet, as well.
Joanne Costello described Stemp as a people person.
"She is incredibly giving and caring," Joanne Costello said. "She’s always trying to help out a good cause."
Stemp, a long-time friend of the Costello family, said she picked John Costello for the same reasons.
"I always said, ‘John Costello, someday I’m going to pay you back,’" she said. "It took nine years to do it, but I think I got him back."
"Loudoun’s First Ever Home Makeover" will air Wednesday, April 26, at 9:30 p.m., on Adelphia Cable channel 24.