Help the Yazzie Family Realize the Dream They Were Promised

by Al Swilling, Founder
SENAA International
Photos provided by Cindy Yurth
20 January 2009

PIÑON, AZ — On the second day of January, a SENAA International member posted to our discussion group an article from The Navajo Times dated 25 September 2008, titled  "Problems Plague 'Extreme Makeover' House," by Cindy Yurth.

The Yazzie Family's "Extreme Makeover" house. Photo by Cindy Yurth, The Navajo Times

Extreme Fakeover: Home Perdition?

The article relates the experience of Dineh Georgia Yazzie and her family, who live at Piñon, Arizona, and their gift of a new house built by the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" TV program that airs on ABC network, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company. The house was built in May 2007, and the program aired on 28 October 2007.

In the article, the author tells of a host of problems with the new house that began to show up even before the program aired, and the non-response of the show's producers and the network, even though the house was under a one-year warranty.

When SENAA International contacted writer Cindy Yurth to ask about the present status of the house, her response was that ABC had done very little to repair the house; and the repairs still aren't finished. 

After more than a year, Georgia and her family are still having a hard winter because of ABC, Disney, and Lock & Key Productions' failure to respond to Georgia's pleas for help. In fact ABC's primary response was to send a representative to Georgia Yazzie's house to get her to sign a release form that would release ABC and the show's producers from any responsibility or obligation to honor the warranty. When she refused to sign the release, the ABC representative became abusive, saying that Georgia was ungrateful and talking to her as if the shoddy workmanship and ABC's failure to honor its own warranty were her fault.

When SENAA asked Georgia Yazzie, in a phone conversation about the incident, she said that she understood his being upset, because he had come to her house to get her signature on the release form and was upset because he had to go back to the network empty handed.

Click to view larger image
(Click to enlarge) Pipes insulated with black insulation and red tape were not insulated by the contractor. The first winter, the pipes froze and burst, flooding the house's crawlspace. 
(photo by Cindy Yurth)

For several months before the warranty period ended, Georgia tried to contact ABC and Lock & Key Productions, the producers of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", on several occasions. Each time she phoned Lock & Key Productions, she was told that everyone was out on a new home project, but someone would be in touch with her very soon. No one ever returned her call.

The calls to and excuses from the production company went on until the warranty expired. That isn't surprising, and it is certainly nothing new. That old ruse has been used by businesses since there have been warranties as a means of trying to avoid accountability for lousy workmanship. The company will stonewall the customer until the warranty expires, then it will cite the warranty's expiration date and try to refuse to do anything.

To add insult to injury, one of the contractors who worked on the Yazzie house was told by ABC that he didn't have to redo his shoddy workmanship on the Yazzie house if he would do another makeover

project for free. The contractor accepted, leaving the Yazzie family on its own.

The "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" project was taken on at the request of Georgia Yazzie's son, Garrett, who invented a machine that would bring water and electricity to the Yazzie home. He has been living off the reservation with his legal guardian, Kathleen Pierz, where he can get a better education than the reservation schools can provide. He said that he agreed to the "Extreme Makeover" project so his family would have a warm home and he wouldn't have to worry about them. Now he is considering abandoning his educational dreams to move back onto the reservation with his family. He says that, because of the way ABC has treated his family, he is more worried about them now than ever, because he doesn't know what is going to happen next.

NTUA in on the Scam

On top of the way ABC and Lock & Key Productions are treating the Yazzie family, the utility company, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), is not giving the Yazzie family credit for the surplus electricity that the family's photovoltaic solar panels are producing.

The wind turbine was also supposed to generate electricity, to take up the slack for the solar panels at night and during overcast days; but the company that donated the wind turbine donated their lowest quality unit,  and it soon failed.   Still,  the solar panels  were

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(Click to enlarge) Warped cork flooring inside the Yazzie house (photo by Cindy Yurth)

putting enough surplus power onto NTUA's grid that it should have offset the amount of electricity used during the winter months--if NTUA had abided by federal mandates and had given the Yazzie family credit for the surplus power.

Federal law requires that the utility company pay for all generated electricity that goes onto the utility company's grid. For the first few months, the Yazzie family was getting credit, which was applied to the family's winter utility bills when the solar panels did not produce as much power and the house was pulling power off the grid. According to Georgia Yazzie and other sources, as suddenly it started, credit to her utility account stopped. The utility company is no longer giving credit for the Yazzie family's surplus electricity. Consequently, because of the insulation problems with the house and failure to give winter credit that was accumulated during the spring and summer months, the family's winter utility bills are topping $400.00 per month.

(Click to enlarge)   This decorative support beam veneer is pulling away from the wall. It's worse now than it was in this photo. (photo by Cindy Yurth)

It has now been 19 months since the home was built, and the flaws in construction still have not been repaired by ABC; Lock & Key Productions; or the parent, Walt Disney Company. NTUA is still not giving the Yazzie family credit for the surplus electricity being generated. The Yazzie family is still having to suffer 40-degree room temperatures, and Garrett is still  worried about  his  family and is still considering putting his education on hold.

Your Help Needed to Help the Yazzie Family Get Justice

Georgia Yazzie is grateful for her new house, but she is no better off in terms of physical health and worry. The house had a one-year warranty that was still in effect when the wall insulation settled and a heating unit failed, causing the house to lose its heat. The  house  was  still  under  warranty  when  the  problems began to multiply. It isn't her fault that the contractors did substandard work; and because the house was under warranty, she has every right to expect Disney

and its subsidiaries to make the repairs. She is every bit as deserving of a happy ending as every other family that "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has helped. She certainly doesn't deserve less. Nevertheless, that is exactly what Disney, ABC, and Lock & Key Productions have given to Georgia Yazzie and her family, including a daughter who is asthmatic. SENAA International says that Disney, ABC, and Lock & Key Productions' attitude is unacceptable.  

SENAA International is asking for your participation to contact the Walt Disney Company, ABC, and Lock & Key Productions and demand that they make things right for the Yazzie family by making the necessary repairs that they were bound under their own warranty to make.

We also ask that everyone contact the NTUA and demand that the Yazzie family be given credit for the electricity that the family's solar system is putting onto the grid.

The Yazzie family is aware of SENAA International's efforts to help resolve this issue.

Contact Information

(Click to enlarge) The greywater irrigation system malfunctioned, turning the Yazzie family's front yard into a cesspool. Here you see where the overflow is eroding a ditch across the drive. 
(Photo by Cindy Yurth)

Contact information for Walt Disney Company, ABC,  Lock & Key Productions,  and  the NTUA is provided below. The more complaints that they receive, the louder our voice will be. The louder our voice, the more likely they will be to set things right with the Yazzie family.

Robert A. Iger, CEO The Walt Disney Company 500 S. Buena Vista St. Burbank, CA 91521-9722

ABC, Inc. 500 S. Buena Vista Street Burbank, CA 91521-4551

Note: Send letters to BOTH Lock & Key addresses

Lock & Key Productions 1149 South Gower Street, Suite 10 Los Angeles, CA 90038
Producer: Denise Cusey; Phone: 323-270-6767
Executive Producer: Diane Korman
PR: Mark Dashiell; E-mail:

Lock & Key Productions c/o Family Casting P.O. Box 38670 Los Angeles, CA 90038

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) P.O. Box 170 Fort Defiance, AZ 86504 Phone: 928-729-5721 Web Site:

(Click to enlarge)  Greywater is waste water from the kitchen sink, deep sink, washing machine, shower or tub, dishwasher, and lavatory. Even filtered greywater is not suitable for lawns and landscaping where people will be walking or children playing. What possessed Lock & Key to install greywater irrigation for use around children is beyond comprehension. (photo by Cindy Yurth)

"If you wish upon a star, your dreams come true..." 

If letters to the three entities do not induce them to repair the Yazzie family's home, then we will conduct a media blitz, contacting every major news network and as many local TV, radio, and newspaper offices as we can about the inexcusable way that Disney and its subsidiaries have treated the Yazzie family. If that does not work, we intend to boycott the Walt Disney Company and mount demonstrations of protest outside entrances to Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida. Because SENAA International is an international organization, the effects of a boycott on all things Disney would be far reaching.  One way or another, we will see that the Walt Disney Company makes good to the Yazzie family its promises of a happy ending.

We will inform the world that in Disneyland dreams may come true if you wish upon a star, but there is no guarantee how long the dream will last.

Apparently some dreams only last about five months before they begin to crumble like sand castles.

For more information or comments, contact SENAA International

Related Documents

"Problems Plague Extreme Makeover House," by Cindy Yurth, The Navajo Times

Energy Analysis Report for the Yazzie house

Letter from Mark Snyder regarding unresolved issues with the Yazzie House



© Copyright 2009, by Al Swilling and SENAA International. All rights reserved.