Saturdays are for building: BYU Y-Serve program teams up with Self-Help Homes


BYU students get together every Saturday at 8 a.m. to help build homes in Salem, Utah, for low-income families through the Self-Help Homes program.

Self-Help Homes is a government-sponsored company that works with families who may not be able to afford the cost of a home upfront. Through this program, these families are able to help with the process of building their own house, contributing at least 35 hours a week.

This lowers the cost of their home by 10–20%, allowing them to not have to pay a down payment.

Thomas Radle, the executive director of the Self-Help Homes Y-Serve group, spends his Saturdays helping build homes. (Kamree Laursen)

Thomas Radle, the executive director of the Self-Help Homes Y-Serve group, has been involved for more than a year now. He said he has enjoyed being a part of the process and seeing the progress each of these families has made from week to week.

“I would say that the most rewarding part of being involved with Self-Help Homes is meeting the amazing families that we get to work with,” Radle said. “It’s rewarding knowing that you are making a difference in helping families have a home of their own to raise their children in.”

According to Radle, the biggest thing he wants the student volunteers to gain from their experience is to meet new people and get out of their comfort zone by learning new skills and challenging themselves.

BYU neuroscience major and Self-Help Homes regular Austin Bay enjoys coming each weekend to help build these homes and learn more construction skills. Bay said he grew up working on these types of projects with his father, so being involved with this Y-Serve group is a lot of fun for him.

BYU student Austin Bay works the power saw cutting wood. (Kamree Laursen)

“Honestly, I just enjoy coming back every Saturday and seeing how much progress has been made and knowing I was a part of their house,” Bay said.

Self-Help Homes is not only an opportunity for these families to build their own house but it is also a chance for them to get to know their neighbors on another level.

Braden and Karen Holmes, recipients of Self-Help Homes, said they have been able to develop a strong friendship with their neighbors since they are all building their houses together.

“A lot of people move in and never know their neighbors, but we already know our neighbors. It’s cool to start building that community,” Braden Holmes said.

On average, most of the homes take around 10–12 months to complete. The Holmes family has been working on their home for nine months and they have about three months left.

Braden and Karen Holmes stand in front of their future home, eager to finish the building process. They are at the construction site every day, putting in the hours to build their home. (Kamree Laursen)

Through this process, Karen Holmes said she has learned a lot about time management and being able to juggle work, kids and of course, the actual construction of her future home. However, she and her husband have not been alone in this process.

Scott Tuttle, Self-Help Homes lead construction supervisor and recipient of a house, has been by the Holmes’ side throughout this whole operation. He helped teach them, and other families, valuable construction skills such as using a nail gun or saw.

“The most rewarding thing is watching people accomplish the hard thing of building a house and seeing that satisfaction come to them after they have built their own home. That’s what the driving thing is to keep me doing this,” Tuttle said.

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