Dan Merritt owns the Merritt General Store in Deveraux, and he and his wife live in the house above it. But now, using a wheelchair after falling three stories, Merritt is unable to manuever through the narrow aisles and steep stairs of his century-old house. The Merritt family had been living with relatives for four months because Merritt couldn't get around his own home.
"I've never been laid-up in my life. I've barely been sick five days! I really felt helpless," Merritt says.
He may have felt helpless, but the town was ready to help. The community collected donations and decided to build an entire new ground-level wing to Merritt's home.
"He said he needed a new room, so I told him, 'We're going to do the room, and it's not going to cost you anything,'" says close family friend and project organizer Jim Riske.
"I was just shocked," Merritt says of hearing the news. "So I said 'Okay.'"
Local businesses, long-time friends and mere acquaintances donated windows, cement and-- most of all-- their time. The Merritts say they couldn't have afforded this needed addition and are so humbled by the community's response.
"At first, you don't want to accept it. I kept saying, 'You just can't let people do this.' No one here is wealthy," remarks Merritt's wife, Jackie. "But my friend said, 'Let them do it, they want to do it.'"
Neighbors were putting the finishing touches on the new wing and wheelchair-accessible bathroom on Saturday. Just in time for the holidays, the room is now ready to use. They've even built a ramp leading up to the new wing outside so Merritt can come and go with ease.
"By far, this is the best Christmas gift ever. Having a room back there is going to be wonderful," Merritt says.
"There's no way you can repay someone for their physical work or for their emotional help," Jackie Merritt adds. "You can only hope that you can give a little back to them at some point."
Giving back: that's just what the community did for the man who has helped them for decades.