October 24th, 2013 ended like any other school day. Amy Pepler searched her son’s backpack for announcement papers and assignments from teachers. On this particular day, there was a flyer from NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley about “Build It Yourself” homes. Amy recalled hearing others talk about this project, but like most people, her first instinct was that such a program was too good to be true and must be some type of scam.
As a working, single mother of two children, Amy had many reasons to doubt the validity of such program. But, taking a risk, she called the number on the flyer. This phone call would change her family’s life forever.
Her call was answered by Daynah Williams, homeownership coach at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley. Daynah runs the Self-Help Housing Program funded through the US Department of Agriculture and was excited for the prospect of pulling a new person into the forming team of “Selfies.” Daynah set up an appointment to share the components of the program with Amy.
Amy was nervous and unsure what possibilities, if any, would be available to her to own a home, much less to build one. Yet, on the day of her appointment, Amy was warmly greeted by Daynah, and learned of the program that helps families build their own affordable homes in rural communities. Their sweat equity reducing the cost of the home. Each family has the responsibility of spending weekends and 1-2 nights/week on the work site and must bring up 6-8 other builders to assist with the task.
While Amy thought this sounded difficult and questioned her ability to pull together a team, her desire to provide a permanent home for her children helped her to overcome these insecurities. Within a month of that initial meeting, Amy received a call from Daynah and heard the words she had dreamed of hearing: “you’ve been approved!”
In October 2015, Amy and six other families broke ground on their new homes.
As Amy feared, it was oftentimes difficult for her to consistently pull together a team of 6-8 people each week to work on her new home. What Amy hadn’t expected was the response from the other builders. In true Selfie style, on the weeks her team was limited, other Selfies shared their teammates to help Amy reach her goal.
The building process in itself was an education. Amy realized that power tools were not as intimidating as she originally thought, she learned to measure, hang dry wall (which to this day she still hates), and even overcome her fear of heights. When Amy first saw the scaffolding she thought, “there was no way you’re getting me up there,” now she is a siding expert, and heights are a little less intimidating.
But her favorite thing about the experience was coming together with the different families and experiencing such a close-knit group. How many people can say that they’ve moved into a neighborhood of friends? For Amy this will be the case.
Amy Pepler’s hard work, dedication and creative budgeting paid off. According to Amy, “building this house has been hard work, but seeing the look on my children’s faces when they learned that they had a place to call their own, made it all worthwhile.”
Amy and the group of “Selfies” are scheduled to cut the ribbons on their new homes on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016. All are invited to come out and celebrate her success.