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Nonprofit, builder turn house into home for wounded Arizona veteran

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GOODYEAR – Tears streamed down Richard Neider’s face as his wheelchair rolled through the front door of his new home and he saw hardwood floors.

“I can roll into the house,” he said. “I can get through the home completely without having my wife have to help me get through.”

Those and other custom features, including lower light switches, wider doors and roll-under sinks, turned this house into a home for Neider, a former Army sergeant wounded while on active duty.

Neider, his wife and two children received the 2,278-square-foot house free of mortgage thanks to a homebuilder’s partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit assisting troops and their families. It’s the first home the family has owned.

Meritage Homes Corp., a real-estate development company, made other changes to make the house wheelchair-accessible, including a built-in desk where Neider can help his son with his homework as well as lower kitchen countertops. Neider said it wasn’t easy to get around the kitchen of the home his family had been renting.

“Having a countertop that’s to a height that I can sit and be able to enjoy a meal with my children … has made it extremely accessible,” he said.

Tim Farrell, chief operating officer of Operation Homefront, said the group created the Homes on the Homefront program a little over a year ago to help families such as Neider’s.

“This journey has led them to this wonderful, newly built, mortgage-free home that’s going to be a generational impact on a change in their life for the better,” he said.

While the program has put more than 250 military families into mortgage-free homes, this is the first time the organization has partnered with a builder of new homes. Two families in other states are receiving new homes this week under the program.

Families applying for Homes on the Homefront must include an honorably discharged veteran with no criminal record, and they can’t currently be homeowners, Farrell said.

Phillippe Lord, president of the West region of Meritage Homes, said he decided to partner with Operation Homefront because he wanted to do something for the military.

“They provide housing to deserving veterans across the country,” Lord said.

Neider, whose deployments during nine years in the Army included service in Iraq, said that everything about the new home will take a big weight off of his family. His wife will no longer have to lift him up when he’s using the restroom, for example.

“I’m so impressed with how much Operation Homefront and Meritage Homes is doing for my family alone,” Neider said. “This is a phenomenal experience.”