It’s a mistaken conception that Boys and Girls Clubs only take root in urban hubs with more than 100,000 residents. They’re also in smaller townships and “provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for youngsters of every race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability socio-economic status and religion to reach their full potential.”
Regardless of the size of these communities, the generosity of its residents can be astonishing. Such an example took place recently in Paris just northeast of DFW thanks to Suzy and Chip Harper and a company fondly known as HWH.
But first the backstory. It started way back in 1887, when little Alma Harrison was born. On her birth certificate her father, John W. Harrison, listed his occupation as “contractor.” For the next 21 years John and “his early partners built large, elaborate homes like the W.B. Wise House for civic and business leaders, which became showcases for fine craftsmanship and new materials.”
Over the years they expanded their scope or expertise to include commercial projects. In 1932 they completed their “first aircraft hangar at Legion Field for $700 — a precursor to the Boeing 747 Air Force One hangar HWH would design and build for E-Systems in the 1980s.”
Thanks to the homebuilding boom resulting from the newly created FHA loan, the group was named Harrison and Son … the son being Barney Harrison, who would become principal owner following John’s death.
It was in 1947 and the post-World War II economy was once again seeing a boom for construction. Joining Barney in the company as a partner was his son, J.W. Harrison II, who had returned from overseas military service. Unfortunately, the partnership lasted only seven years due to Barney’s “unexpected death.” At that time J.W. II became the sole owner of the company.
In 1959 Charlie Walker joined J.W. II as engineer and equal partner and “developed the site layout for a Campbell Soup Company production facility and many new industrial and institutional projects into the 1960s.”
It was during this time that the company made its headquarters at 222 Hickory Street in Paris.
At the beginning of the 1970s, J.W. II’s stepson Chip Harper joined the company full-time and within three years “took the helm of the company’s Delta Steel Building franchise and quickly achieved record sales for the region.” By the end of the decade the company changed its name to Harrison Walker and Harper (aka HWH1887).
Ten years later the other partners retired and Chip became the sole owner, bringing on board his sons, Holland Harper and Jordan Harper, who would become CEO and president, respectively. Over the next three decades the company that had gotten its start with John W.’s describing himself as a “contractor” in 1887 was now four generations later a major entity working on projects throughout the country.
So, what does all this have to do with the Boys and Girls Club? In the early 2010s Chip realized that the company had outgrown its headquarters on Hickory Street and relocated it to its current site at 2510 S. Church Street in Paris.
But Chip was not one to let a good thing go to waste, so he and his wife Suzy donated the Hickory property that included approximately nine acres and five remodeled buildings to the Boys and Girls Club of The Red River Valley.
According to Chip, “As longtime neighbors and supporters of the Boys and Girls Club of The Red River Valley, we know the meaningful impact this organization has on the children and their families in our community. This land and its building served out HWH team for nearly 50 years, and we hope it will do the same in providing the needed space for the club to grow and the kids to continue learning and playing.”
While the acreage will provide space for outdoor activities for both Club members and the Paris community, the building are planned to “serve as additional administrative offices ad new learning and creative areas for Club youth members.”
In appreciation of this donation, Boys and Girls Club of The Red River Valley Board President Montgomery Moore said, “This generous donation from HWH is a game-changer for all that we can offer our Club members and the community of Paris. We are grateful for their generosity and know that this land and its building will go a long way in helping fulfill the dreams of empowering our city’s youth reach their full potential as caring and productive citizens of Paris and beyond.”
* Photo courtesy of Harrison Walker Harper ** Photo provided by Boys and Girls Club of The Red River Valley