Herald/Andrew D. Brosig - Interior designer Sandee Payne, owner of Buy the Hour Interiors in Harker Heights, works on one of some 100 throw pillows she’s making for the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” project home for Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler in Salado. Payne, wife of Lt. Col. Michael Payne, rear detachment commander for the 36th Engineer Brigade, said she was happy to be asked to help on a project with such strong ties to Fort Hood.

By Andrew D. Brosig

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS - Surrounded by pins and up to their elbows in fabric, By the Hour Interiors owner Sandee Payne and design assistant Megan Manion were caught up in a flurry of activity Wednesday as they work to create items for inclusion in the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" house under construction in Salado.

Thousands of volunteers, both individuals and businesses, signed on to help create the home for Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler and his fiancee, Jessica Hansen. The project wound up striking very close to home for Payne and her husband.

Lt. Col. Michael Payne serves as rear detachment commander for the 36th Engineer Brigade at Fort Hood. Zeigler was a cavalry scout who served two deployments to Iraq with 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

He was in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on Nov. 5, 2009, and has spent most of the intervening months in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation centers from Temple to Austin, recovering from multiple gunshot wounds he suffered that day.

Zeigler is currently assigned to 1st Battalion, Warriors Transition Brigade.

"It's very touching," Sandee Payne said. "We're involved in the same life they are, we're very connected to the life of a soldier. It feels very direct, there definitely is a connection."

The big push

While Sandee is swimming through the ocean of fabric, Michael Payne and some 150 of his soldiers from the 36th are on-site in Salado, helping push the abbreviated construction time line through to have the home built and furnished in just seven days, she said. It's a hectic schedule, Sandee said. But she's loving it.

Sandee and Michael made their plans to volunteer well in advance of the announcement last week naming Zeigler and Hansen recipients of the current project home, she said. They attended an organizational rally hosted by the television show Nov. 30 in Georgetown, where they signed up to help any way they could.

"We heard the show was coming," Sandee said. "We decided we had the skills where we could help in some way."

While the show boasts its own design crew which is pretty much in charge, Sandee is able to add some of her own personal touches to the items she's creating. The interior design crew from the show provided her with fabric samples, along with dimensions for the somewhere around 100 throw pillows they needed her to make. They turned her loose from there, she said.

The designers also banked on Sandee's experience and familiarity with local and area suppliers and crafts people who could assist with her part of the project. Sandee has farmed out some of the work on pillows, along with window treatments and other fabric items, to friends with businesses in Leander, Salado and Killeen.

"(The show designers) have been awesome," Sandee said. "For not knowing me and being able to utilize us and take advantage of our skills. I really enjoy the entire design aspect, carrying through from a concept to the installation."

Familiar territory

It's not that great a departure from what she usually does, Sandee said. Typically, she'll work with homeowners and clients who have at minimum an idea of the design concept they're looking for. From there, it's Sandee's job to make that vision a reality, she said.

"We're brought into homes where the people have strong ideas," Sandee said. "We work around what the family wants. It's their home, their style, and we're working around what the family wants."

And, unlike most of the volunteers, Sandee and Michael will hopefully be close to the action when Zeigler and Hansen return home today for their first glimpse of their new home. That will be the most exciting part, she said.

"It's going to be exciting to know our actual contribution, what we put into it, is going to be seen," Sandee said. "I think it's just great, given the sacrifice (Zeigler) made. It's a way of saying thank you, by helping him."

Contact Andrew D. Brosig at abrosig@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7469.

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