By Murice Miller, Community Rebuilds self-help participant and proud homeowner

Self-help build in progress
Murice and other participants working on the homes in the build.*

After living in Grand County, Utah for three years, my family and I made the official move to Moab, Utah in 2015. Now, it was a great challenge. We took weeks, actually months, trying to secure housing. Also, in making the move to Moab, I literally was starting over when it came to employment. My wife and I had lived and worked at DayStar Adventist Academy in Castle Valley, Utah and when 2015 started we knew it was going to be our last year at the school. So, we started praying and looking for housing.

I was fortunate to have employment lined up through an internship with the Moab Small Business Development Center. It was through this internship that I was able to start another internship with the Moab Sun News. It was while on an assignment for the Moab Sun News that I officially encountered Community Rebuilds.

Build participants in the hay barn.
Community Rebuilds staff, volunteers and build participants having some fun with the straw bales used to build the homes.*

In the summer of 2016, a government official within the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development came to visit Moab and toured Community Rebuilds’ energy efficient, straw bale homes. My task was to photograph the visit for the newspaper. I remember seeing this house that was covered in dirt and I went inside and I was blown away by how cool it was without any air conditioner. I went back outside into the summer heat and I was reminded of just how hot it was. I called my wife and told her about Community Rebuilds and I kid you not, she said these exact words, “I have been telling you about Community Rebuilds and that we should sign up for it!” I felt like a fool because I was being stubborn in trying to find ways to buy a house. If I had just listened to my wife earlier, we would have gotten started sooner on the Community Rebuilds process. But, things happen for a reason!

Murice and family on the porch of their new home.
Murice and his wife, Valencia, son Jedidiah and daughter, Jaidah, enjoying their front porch.*

We signed up and got the process started. I am amazed at how fast the time went by. Before we knew it we were intensely searching Moab for affordable building lots. It was a tedious process but in doing so we met plenty of individuals who did not know about Community Rebuilds. We shared information with them and we always walked away with a smile because we may have impacted their futures. Time was running out and it seemed like we may have to wait for another build group but a miracle happened.

Miller family enjoying their beautiful new home.
Miller family, proud homeowners, enjoying their beautiful new home.*

Community Rebuilds had a piece of land that was beautifully placed with a beautiful view of the mountains. There was one issue though, there was something called gypsum on the land. Gypsum is used to create drywall and when water gets on it, it turns to slush. It is just horrible. Whenever I tell this story to others I always share the fact that Community Rebuilds was always honest with us. They gave us the good and the bad. Yes, it was a beautiful location but because of the gypsum we would build differently and our budget would be seriously affected. We would have to remove some of the gypsum, add dirt, and build the foundation deeper and a few other adjustments. They also let us know that we could find an alternative affordable building lot and wait for the next building group.

My wife and I talked and prayed about it and we decided to go for it. We are so glad that we did because we got to know an amazing team of hard workers from all over the United States and one from England. Each and every one of the teammates are unique and different, yet they made the whole experience memorable. I know for sure that they will be successful in life because of their hard work and dedication that they exhibited while working on the houses in Moab. It was an amazing experience and I will forever encourage everyone to get involved with Community Rebuilds either as an intern, a homeowner or a volunteer. Now, not everyone is going to be able to have a house built, but everyone could help in the build. Thank you Community Rebuilds for making a difference in our lives as well as the lives of countless Moab residents. Now that I am a homeowner, I can focus on making sure that I am always able to provide for my wife, my son and my daughter and continue to help make a difference in Moab. Thank you Community Rebuilds team!

Build participants standing in front of a nearly completed home.
Self-help housing build participants camera ready in front a nearly completed home.*

*Photos by Murice Miller.

Community Rebuilds is nonprofit corporation, whose mission is to build energy efficient housing, provide education on sustainability, and improve the housing conditions of the workforce through an affordable program. ​

As a licensed general contractor in Utah and Colorado, Community Rebuilds constructs affordable and energy efficient straw bale homes, working with and training a dedicated group of student intern volunteers on each home project.