COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina native and television host Leeza Gibbons will face-off with Geraldo Rivera in the live finale of Celebrity Apprentice.
"I really thought long and hard about doing this," Gibbons said as she reflected on when she was first asked to appear on NBC's hit show. "I was a last minute add to the cast."
But Gibbons added it was her husband who convinced her the grand prize on Celebrity Apprentice was worth the risk.
"Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, grand prize, is a life-changer for a small charity like mine," Gibbons said. "That was enough incentive to get me on the plane."
Her last minute decision has already been worth $140,000 for Leeza's personal foundation, Leeza's Care Connection. That means her longtime dream of opening one of her facilities for caregivers in her hometown of Irmo is finally coming true.
"It's always been a heartache for me that I've not been able to offer what we do here in my hometown," Gibbons said. "This is where my mom lived and where she loved and where she died, so be able to come home is just so meaningful for me."
Gibbons' mom and grandmother both battled Alzheimer's disease.
Now just a few blocks from where Leeza grew up, she's setting up a center to educate, empower and energize caregivers, like her dad Carlos Gibbons was, in the Michael J. and Mary Meech Mungo Home.
"It's a Godsend to tell you the truth," Carlos said. "Caregivers -- they get downhearted, they get feeling down and out. They need somewhere to come where they meet other people in similar situations."
The Mungo Foundation says they'll be leasing the home where Michael J. and his wife Mary lived for years to Leeza's Care Connection for just a dollar a year. The house sits on the corner of St. Andrews Road and Tram Road in the Whitehall community.
"We started talking about it a little bit and realized it would be the perfect place for what [Leeza] wanted to do," Stewart Mungo said. "We had hoped when dad died that we could find a charitable use for the property. We pursued a few alternatives and this just fell into place."
Carlos believes it's a perfect fit, too. “Oh, gee, [Leeza's] mom is looking down right now on her and smiling,” he added.
Leeza had always promised her mom she'd tell her story and fight for all those affected by diseases like Alzheimer's. Now she's getting a chance to bring her mom's story to life in her neighborhood.
"To look at this house, and to look at the generosity of the Mungo Foundation and what that family stands for, what I hope our family stands for, what this community means, that's a story that is still being written," Gibbons said. "And that will be told for generations, and I'm just so proud to be a part of it."
Gibbons said she hopes Leeza's Care Connection in Irmo will open in the next two to three months. As far as her thoughts on sitting at the boardroom table before Donald Trump in Monday's live finale, Leeza says she's ready.
"When you start anything I think you have to put yourself in the head space of winning. You have to expect that you're going to arrive at this moment or you'll never get there," said Gibbons. "Now I'm at the moment, and I'm ready for anything."