Extreme Makeover Home Edition in NC

MARTIN COUNTY Gulf War Veteran Jeff Cooper and his family are down east in Martin County.

What you may not know is that show was filmed in March. So, I went back to visit with the Coopers to see how their lives have changed.

What I found moved me.

I spent a few hours with people who were as sweet and grounded now as they were before the celebrity designers, film crew and volunteers invaded their quiet, gravel road neighborhood in Jamesville; with a population less than 600.

Most of all, I found an ex-military man who not only had a magnificent, new home, but a man who had his freedom back and his faith reinforced.

"That reaction is genuine," Jeff Cooper told me with a huge smile on his face. He was talking about seeing himself in the previews for Sunday's "Extreme Makeover Home Edition". He said he had no idea what he would see when they moved that bus. He and his wife, Claire, were expecting a typical country home with a wrap-around porch.

That is not what they saw.

Their home is, what Cooper calls a huge, magnificent cabin. A 2,500 square foot log cabin, built by North Carolina's own Edenton Builders, Inc. "This is just unbelievable, Claire Cooper said, "It's better than any dream home I've ever had in my head."

The first week they moved in there was a constant parade of guests. People from all over the country have been stopping by ever since and saying hello. Although the numbers have dwindled.

They walk up to the porch, Cooper's favorite part of the house. It's a comfortable area outside, right off the kitchen, with four unique rocking chairs. Cooper, who has multiple sclerosis, pulls his wheelchair up along the other rockers, many times with his dog relaxing on a little blanket between his feet.

Claire says, "This is the best place to have a cup of coffee." As a recipient of the Extreme Makeover, Cooper sees it as his duty to greet anyone who stops by, especially when they tell him they're praying for them, which they do.

If Claire had to pick her favorite part (she didn't want to pick just one) it would be what she calls Ty's bathroom. Ty Pennington built a luxurious master bathroom for them. Cooper, however, had a particular request of Pennington for his wife. The master bedroom. "That bedroom", he said, "was a dream for me for my wife. First up in the morning, the last up at night, the person who takes care of us all. She's got a nice place to rest now."

Cooper has newfound freedom in this house. The entire home is handicap accessible, including the kitchen, which easily allows Cooper to cook, which he loves. His wife adds, with a smile, he can also do dishes.

His wife has not had to give him a bath once since they moved in.

During the night now, Cooper told me, "I slide from the bed over into the wheelchair, me and my dog spend time outside. We sit back and marvel at the house. I sit and pray and thank God for it."

Cooper also thanks God his children are no longer ashamed to bring their friends home.

He also is very thankful for Pennington's special gift to him. An office full of Cooper's war memorabilia, including a medallion given to Cooper by former four-star general Colin Powell.

The Cooper's went to Washington DC during the week of the build and that's when Cooper got the chance to visit Powell, a man he greatly admires and calls his old boss. Cooper was awestruck when Powell thanked him for his service. At that moment Cooper felt he should be thanking Powell for his service.

There is also a memorial in the front of the house given especially to Cooper from the Extreme Makeover design team. A stone bench with each of Cooper's family members who have served in the military inscribed in honor or loving memory.

Along with the newfound freedom, Cooper's faith is confirmed. "This," Cooper says of his new home, "is a testimony to tithing," Cooper believes God rewards not only putting money in the offering plate but giving time to others. Cooper told me, God "promises he will give it back to us ten fold, and my house is a testament to that."

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