Couple completes service project in Bluffdale in honor of brotherJun 22, 2020 11:58AM ● By Stephanie Yrungaray
By Stephanie Yrungaray | [email protected]
Members of the Bluffdale Independence Community garden are the recipients of a custom-built gazebo thanks to a final act of goodwill from a Wyoming man and his willing sister and brother-in-law.
Draper residents Carl and Melanie Harris are sprinkling their retirement with humanitarian projects, including the garden gazebo. Using Carl’s handyman skills, Melanie’s special touch, and funds from Melanie’s brother Chris Fox, they are completing projects to help others across Utah.
“Chris passed away much younger than he should have,” Melanie Harris said. “In the process, he said he had some money he wanted to leave us. We asked what he wanted us to do with the money and he said, ‘Use it for good works.’”
Carl and Melanie, both retired BYU professors, have taken on Fox’s challenge with beautiful results. Carl grew up with a handy father and wanted to use his building skills to help others. So far, they have designed and built a shed at a Habitat for Humanity project in Orem, built a table and a two-story playhouse at a preschool in Moab and built another gazebo at a Sandy garden that donates produce to people in need.
“I kind of fell in love with their beautiful garden, and I asked them if they had any needs because I was looking for a project,” Carl said. “They needed a gazebo so that their volunteers would have a shady spot when they came to sort veggies so we built a gazebo there.”
Carl enjoyed the project so much he contacted Wasatch Community Gardens to look for other garden projects. They connected him with Bluffdale resident Emily Swanson, who helped start the city’s Independence Community Garden.
“He came at just the right time,” Swanson said.
The garden, in its second year, was expanding by 20 plots, and Swanson had a vision of including a gathering place.
“I set aside a place in the center of the garden and thought maybe one day it could be a Scout project,” Swanson said. “Then Carl came in and was willing to build it.”
The Bluffdale gazebo project took place over a three-month time period, with much of it occurring during the pandemic. Carl had to get creative with finding the supplies he needed but didn’t let the coronavirus stop the project.
“I’m grateful it was able to go forward when the whole world seemed to be canceling everything,” Swanson said. “He is a really good guy, and I’m glad he has the energy to do what he does.”
Carl designed and built the gazebo.
“For a concept, I look online at gazebos,” Carl said. “Our gazebo in Bluffdale is various dimensions that work for the space. I like to use materials and a paint color that make sense. That is the pleasure of these projects for me. Expectations aren’t too rigorous, and I can be creative.”
Melanie helps where she can with the projects.
“I like to have my opinion on everything,” Melanie said. “There is some of the work that I can do. There are little things here and there that make it fun for me.”
The site for the gazebo was prepared by Bluffdale City staff. They joined with Swanson and the Harris couple at a special ceremony to dedicate the gazebo in honor of Fox on June 5.
“We want to honor him for his generosity,” said Melanie. “Carl has done a plaque on every project with a picture of my brother that states what the purpose of the project is and why my brother wanted it to happen.”
Both Carl and Melanie say that finding and completing humanitarian projects with the money left to them by Chris is fulfilling.
“Without this money, we couldn’t have done the things that we’ve done,” Melanie said. “We are really grateful to have the opportunity to give back to the community and at same time honor my brother.”
“There are a lot of people out there that are doing great thing on behalf of their fellow human beings,” Carl said. “We just like to be a part of that group. We appreciate that compared to what some people are doing this is pretty minor, but compared to doing nothing it’s OK.”