Arboleda is employed by the Twin Cities Catholic Education System and teaches general music to children in grades kindergarten through five at St. Margaret Mary and St. Gabriel schools in Neenah and at St. Mary School in Menasha.
He and wife Claire were raising their five children – C.J., 11, Joshua, 8, Calix, 6, Cullen, 5, and Rhex Jr. (J.R.), 2 – in a 586-square-foot home in Neenah when they were nominated to be an Extreme Makeover Home Edition family.
“Getting ready for school was a challenge. I had to make sure I got up early so I had the first right to use the bathroom,” recalled Arboleda. “When we were eating in our dining area there was only enough room for six so my wife would stand to eat.”
Arboleda admitted to having mixed emotions when he found out that they were getting a new home.
“At first I was overwhelmed. Also I felt so humbled and so blessed that there are people that actually nominated us and cared enough so that we could be part of the Extreme Makeover show,” he said.
Meeting the crew and the celebrity designers was a great experience for the family.
“It amazes me how much the host and the design team – Ty Pennington, Paige Hemmis, Xzibit, Michael Moloney, Derek Hough – are such down-to-earth people. You just feel like they love what they’re doing,” said Arboleda.
The Arboleda family was sent to Disney World, where they weren’t allowed access to cell phones, the Internet or television while their new home was under construction. That’s when Marlow and a team of 3,000 volunteers set to work. With three-and-a-half weeks’ notice they built a 4,200-square-foot house in slightly more than 100 hours.
“We were really trying to build a home that’s going to be for a family,” said Marlow. “We wanted to make something that would aesthetically fit the neighborhood and something that hopefully would be pleasing to Rhex and his family.”
The second day into the project, Marlow had to take a leave of absence from the building site.
“I got the phone call on Sunday night that my daughter-in-law was going into labor at 27 and one-half weeks. So I rushed home and … I saw three brand new baby boys. It was the greatest gift that God could have bestowed upon us,” he said.
Family is very important to Marlow and he appreciates what the volunteers gave up to be at the build most of the week.
“When you look around and you see all the people who are so dedicated to this project and everyone has family members that they’re sacrificing time with to make this project happen, it’s pretty neat,” he said.
All the time and effort was worth it when the new house was revealed.
Arboleda described their reaction, “My knees felt so weak, I had to kneel down. I started to cry. It’s just the house I’ve always dreamed of someday living in. I was so overwhelmed with joy. My wife told me that when the bus moved she cried and her entire body started to shake. My daughter was screaming and she was trying to catch her breath and then she started screaming again. I was so moved because I saw two of my boys actually hugging each other. My oldest son was crying too. My 5-year-old’s jaw just dropped. Our youngest was just staring.”
The Arboledas are grateful for this blessing in their lives.
“God taught us to be thankful with what we had before. Now that he has blessed us with this house we are even more thankful. There is nothing that we would change with this house. I’m so thankful Lexington Homes and Extreme Makeover Home Edition has helped us to have our dream home,” said Arboleda.
Seeing how a community went out of its way to help a family was humbling, added the Catholic school educator.
“These are people from different cities all over Wisconsin. Just to think that they would travel to Neenah to help a family they don’t know but yet they’re willing to help build a house that we’ve been so longing for,” he said. “God has blessed us with everything that has happened – having our mortgage paid off and Kimberly-Clark Corp. providing money for our children’s college fund. They are all part of God’s blessing to us. I wish there is a way to express how much we appreciate them and how much we will be forever thankful,” he said.
An event like this restores a person’s faith in humanity, he explained.
“People are so caring,” said Arboleda. “I feel so honored and proud to be living in the state of Wisconsin and being in this community. It was such a wonderful experience for us – how the community responded throughout the entire week. There’s no words that could describe how we feel.”