We honor 10 DIYers whose spirit of service to our country, their communities or their neighbors makes us proud. They're all fine examples of self-reliance, problem solving and dedication.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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A Salute to DIYers
All of us appreciate the practical side of DIY: saving money and protecting the investment we’ve made in our homes. But for most of us, DIY is also a way to provide a comfortable, safe and enjoyable home for those we love. What’s more, we strive to set an example of self-reliance and problem-solving for our children and to be a person they can call on when things go wrong.
For some DIYers, that spirit of helping others has shaped their entire life. They’ve served our country, their local communities, their neighbors, and the needy, at home and abroad. In this article, we’re doing something a little different and dedicating it to those DIYers who serve. We honor and thank you all.
I hope you find them as inspiring as I do. They make me proud to be a DIYer.
Ken Collier, Editor in Chief
Bill at work on a community service project.
Flower box project
Bill and friends make flower boxes for widows and single moms.
Served with the U.S. Army in Korea and is a former deputy sheriff with the Wyandotte County (Kansas) Sheriff’s Office.
Community service: I run a small army of volunteers called Helping Hands for the Heartland Community Church in Overland Park, Kansas. We’re like a small-scale “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” We use money from private donors to fix up the exteriors of homes of people who are seriously ill. And when the tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, last year, I took a group of 37 volunteers there to help.
Why I serve: I believe that if I help you, and you help Joe, then Joe helps Bob, and so on and so on, what a better world we could have. Idealistic maybe, but paying it forward is the best way to repay for the good things we each have in our own lives.
Why I’m a DIYer: I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I did a job myself and I did it right (even if there was a steep learning curve along the way).
Favorite DIY project: For 20 years, I’ve made Mother’s Day flower boxes for widows and single moms. The first year I started out doing eight for neighbor ladies. Last year we made over 330. I get the wood, flowers and dirt and get 10 to 12 buddies to help me cut, nail and plant the boxes. Everyone loves them.
Patrick Fiorito Jr.
Patrick Fiorito Jr.
Flood rescue work
Patrick is a volunteer firefighter.
Remodeling his home
Patrick reworked his entire house, from the ground up, and put on an addition.
Age 30. Has served as a volunteer firefighter in Totowa, New Jersey, for 10 years and as an officer to 32 active members on the fire company.
Most inspiring experience: Last September’s flooding was the most devastating and inspiring situation I have ever encountered. With 12 other volunteer firefighters, I worked nonstop for 10 days and made more than 200 boat rescues of people and their pets.
Why I serve: The satisfaction I get from helping someone in need is an indescribable feeling. I’m a member of an organization of brothers and we selflessly help ANYONE in need. I really just like helping people.
Why I’m a DIYer: I love learning new things and building things. Most of all, when a project is finished, I can look at the end result and know I built it to the best of my ability and it was done properly.
Favorite DIY project: My fiancée (and now wife) and I bought a total fixer-upper. I had to fix the house from the ground up— everything from underpinning the foundation, all new plumbing, electric, building an additional level with three bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths—everything. I turned a house into a home. When I look at what the house was to where it is now, it’s an amazing feeling knowing I built this for us.
New front porch
Dominic’s latest DIY project is this new front porch.
Joined the Army after graduating from high school and served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Attended carpentry school and worked as a framer for six years. Has been a full-time Minneapolis firefighter for 17 years.
Why I serve: My drive to serve my community is much the same as it was to serve my country. I grew up with a great love and respect for this country, and it was a great honor to serve as a member of our armed forces. It just seemed right to carry that forward by serving the community through the fire services.
Source of Inspiration: I was on duty during the I-35 Mississippi River bridge collapse, and our crew was one of the first responding crews to the scene. It was a horrific scene, and nobody had ever encountered anything like it before. It was truly amazing to see average people setting aside their own fears and pulling together to help one another.
Why I’m a DIYer: I get a lot of DIY pleasure from using my skills as a carpenter to help my neighbors. A lot of them are widows and widowers who can use my help from time to time.
Business owner and former military police officer
Guatemala service project
Log Home Care employee Daniel Wells helped build a mission school in Guatemala.
Served as a military police officer with the Ohio Military Reserve and as an auxiliary Trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for 15 years. He is now the owner of Log Home Care (loghomecareonline.com). He gives each employee a week’s pay and covers all travel expenses to donate their services to a qualified charitable cause they’re passionate about. This year a worker traveled to Guatemala and worked on building a new school for a local mission.
Why helping our employees volunteer is so important: It’s an excellent way to return something to the community at large while allowing our employees to experience life in a different culture. Exposure to other peoples’ lives forces us to constantly reevaluate our own. And the sense of pride and accomplishment shared by the people we help and our employees as they serve is inspiring. There is something inherent in human nature that drives people to help others, and when we can facilitate the opportunity to make that happen, everyone wins.
Served 21 years in the U.S. Marine Corps
Project for Habitat for Humanity
Served 21 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Served as a volunteer firefighter for many years and currently volunteers with the Boy Scouts and Habitat for Humanity in Pennsylvania. He is also a certified electrician and plumber.
Why I serve: To see the pride and glow on the face of someone less fortunate who couldn’t do something, but then did it with the proper help and guidance, is all the reward I need. This is a TRUE “Pay It Forward” situation.
Why I am a DIYer: There is a certain amount of pride and self-esteem that comes when someone asks who my contractor was, and I get to answer “ME.”
How being a DIYer affects my life: It has made me more confident and helps me strive for bigger and better challenges. It’s kind of like being a Marine. The biggest thing my drill instructor instilled in me was that I don’t know what my limits are, and every day is a challenge to find my limits and exceed them.
Favorite DIY project: This would be the Habitat for Humanity tile job I just did. I didn’t want to do it. I tried to convince them to hire a contractor. But I did it and taught them how to do it, and the floor turned out beautiful.
U.S. Air Force/Air Force Reservist for more than 26 years
Porch and ramp-building crew
Celebrating the porch completion with an American flag.
Served in the U. S. Air Force/Air Force Reserves for more than 26 years. Currently serving as a Flight Chief in the Aircraft Maintenance squadron with the 934th Airlift Wing.
Community service: Fifteen years ago, I started volunteering in the youth program at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Tecumseh, Michigan. Our church supports the Christian Social Service (CSS) center in Morehead, Kentucky, and I take groups of teens on weeklong mission trips to work in the community on building projects. We have 30 teens signed up for the mission trip this year, with 12 of them going for a second time.
Most inspiring experience: In 2007, we replaced a porch and built a wheelchair ramp for an elderly couple living in a trailer. While working on the project, the teens found out he was a WWII vet. So during one of our trips to Lowe’s, they said we just had to get an American flag to put on the porch. To see an 82-year-old veteran saluting the flag with tears in his eyes was a sight that neither I nor any of the teens on the trip will ever forget.
How being a DIYer affects my service: By combining my DIY knowledge, my passion for young people and my desire to help others, I feel that I’m making this world a better place, one project at a time. Seeing the expressions on the faces of the youth as they complete projects and meet the people they are helping is an amazing experience.
Served in the Army National Guard and in the U.S. Army as a Military Police Officer. Currently works as a detective for the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Police Department, focusing on the investigation and prosecution of cyber crimes, Internet fraud and Internet predators.
Volunteer service: I speak at high schools, colleges and block club meetings to educate citizens about financial crimes, cyber bullying and Internet safety.
What inspires me: When I help a child who was the victim of a bully or help the bullies themselves, I feel like my time and knowledge are worth something. Knowing that I have prevented someone from becoming a victim is validating.
Why I serve: At one tough point in my life, I was living in my car and I was helped by some very kind people. I’m a Christian man and believe my purpose is to pay it forward.
Why I’m a DIYer: It’s important to me that I’m able to take care of my family. Knowing how to build things and fix them, and provide food and clothing, ensures we will always have what we need.
Favorite DIY project: I always wanted a wooden boat, so I decided to build my own. I found some old johnboat plans and set to work. The boat floated and we even took it to New York for a family vacation! It was a challenge I waited years to take on, and I was very pleased with the results!
Aircraft restoration specialist
Volunteers as an aircraft restoration specialist at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. He is currently restoring the WWII B-17 “Memphis Belle.”
Why I volunteer: During WWII, 10 men risked their lives on every bombing mission that they flew. This is a tribute to them. We strive for absolute authenticity, to make the Memphis Belle look precisely as it looked when it completed its 25th mission—every rivet and screw, every wood item, every dab of paint.
How being a DIYer affects my volunteer work: I can’t donate millions to charity or go off and volunteer for a year in an impoverished nation. Using my skills is just my little part of saying “thank you” and making the world a better place.
Search and rescue expert and volunteer
Steel storage shed project
He and his family and neighbors built the entire shed, including electrical.
Spent 25 years in the Army Corps of Engineers. Among many other volunteer activities, he currently serves as Chairman of the Hidden Lake subdivision Firewise committee; Operations Section Chief for the New Mexico Search and Rescue Council; and Vice President and Training Officer for the Angel Fire Search and Rescue Team.
What inspires me to serve my community: It all comes down to the expressions of gratitude and relief on the faces of families after we’ve found a loved one on a search-and-rescue mission.
Why I’m a DIYer: I like to save money, and I enjoy working with my hands, especially on outdoor projects. It keeps me in good physical shape and gives me a sense of accomplishment.
Favorite DIY project: Constructing, wiring and insulating a 24 x 36-ft. steel storage shed with my wife, son and a neighbor. We did all the work ourselves with the exception of the concrete floor, and it gave us a tremendous sense of accomplishment, especially since we were against a weather timeline to get the shed done before the snows came. (We live at 10,100 feet elevation in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.)
Firefighter and former Marine
Curt using a jackhammer
Curt built an office addition on his home.
Served 20 years in the Marines. Currently a full-time firefighter for Henrico County, VA. He volunteers with his church, the local YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, neighbors, friends and family.
One source of inspiration: In the Marines, I worked on small goodwill projects in West Africa. One time we were moving heavy furniture out of hospital rooms, and despite being seriously ill, the patients stepped in to help us. I suddenly understood how helping others could be a healing experience.
Why I’m a DIYer: I grew up on a farm in the Midwest and learned to be pretty self-sufficient. I like the sense of accomplishment that goes along with doing it myself.
Favorite DIY project: On our first home, I took a covered rear porch/patio and made it into an office. I jackhammered the concrete slab and did it all myself.