Harper’s home: Disabled man moves into new home, built by helping hands

Dirrell Harper said it was a dream come true after he entered his new house to find three flat-screen TVs hanging from wall.

“I don’t need to go any further, really,” he said to laughter from a crowd of folks welcoming him to his new home. “They think I’m kidding.”

A large group of community volunteers and donors built the new house for Harper after his singlewide manufactured home was damaged when a tree fell on it during a storm in June. He moved in Saturday, with dozens of friends and community members welcoming him home.

Harper is confined to a wheelchair most of the time because of a buildup of uric acid in his body. The acid crystallizes in his joints.

A former football star at Sweet Home High School, he is a sports fanatic and enjoys keeping up with games. Multiple TVs allow him to keep track of multiple games.

“It was very cool, very surprising,” Harper said.

With his disability, that’s his life, said volunteer Mike Melcher.

When his health is good, Harper is able to watch the games.

Another TV is set up in his bedroom and another in the bathroom


“This does not look like my back yard, I’ll tell you that,” he said as he went through a double door to his new patio, which includes a barbecue and fire pit set in fresh landscaping. “This is incredible.”

As he moved around, someone commented that it was the ultimate man cave.

“It’s unbelievable,” Harper said. “I don’t know the words to describe it.”

When his house was damaged, he just wanted to get it fixed, he said. “Secretly, they came up with this idea. This had to exceed their expectations.”

His friends Ron Moore and Melcher headed up the project, gathering volunteers and donations to do the project along with insurance money, providing a home with better wheelchair access. People he doesn’t even know stepped up to help, including Gary Carper and contractor Frank Barraza, who headed up the construction of the home.

“I’m blown away by it,” Harper said. “I know the community always steps up.”

As he arrived at his new house, he said, he was amazed by the number of people welcoming him home.

“It’s ridiculous how many cars are out there,” he said. “And then seeing all the people in the house €“ unbelievable.”

The damage caused by the tree gave Moore and others the opportunity to assist Harper. Moore started talking to people and contacted Carper and Barraza, who were interested in doing such a project.

“These guys didn’t know Harper from a guy down the street,” Moore said.

“This is far beyond what I thought,” he added.

Moore and Harper have been friends since they were 6 years old and started playing baseball together, Moore said. They’ve been friends for 35 years, playing baseball in high school and softball as adults.

The project, combining in-kind work, materials and donations is worth at least $120,000, Melcher said.

“It’s just unbelievable,” he said of the project. “The quality of contractors is unbelievable. You can’t pay people to work this hard.”

It took just two and a half months to complete the home, he said.

The work bogged down a bit when it came to the cabinets and tiling, Barraza said, but that was to be expected with just one person working on those items.

Other parts went up fast with 20 or more volunteering to do the work.

“It went really smooth,” he said. “It was surprising how smooth it went. Everything turned out so good. Quality work.”

Before the tree fell on his house, “it wasn’t that bad,” Harper said. “The roof wasn’t falling down on me €“ not until the tree hit.”

But the mobile home had its challenges, and those are addressed in the new house.

The doors and hallways are wider, Harper said. A security system allows him to see who is around the home and allow them access remotely.

A new shower will make it much easier to get a shower without having to get over the wall of a tub.

The project could still use a few more dollars, Melcher said. The group would like to overlay the driveway and put new siding on the shop.

“I do know that what we’ve got so far is paid for,” he said.