True Blue

Building His Community 

Each year an alum donates a home makeover to a neighbor in need.

A group of volunteer construction workers stand outside a home that's gone through a makeover.
Brett Mickelsen and his volunteer team break for lunch outside a recent Hammers ’N Angels home makeover. Photo by Donna Larson.

Vivian’s home was in shambles. She’d spent the last 15 years raising three grandchildren after her daughter passed away. At the time, her husband was struggling with Parkinson’s disease and the couple was under severe financial difficulties. Despite these challenges Vivian raised the kids as best she could—often forgoing needed home repairs in order to provide for immediate needs. 

Brett K. Mickelsen (BS ’94), owner of CQL-2000 Constructors, remembers Vivian’s home well. The kitchen had no electricity, mold covered the basement floors from years of flooding, and the bathroom’s floorboards were nearly rotted through. In the cold months Vivian wore two coats and an old beanie, braving Colorado winters with no furnace. 

Vivian’s granddaughter Stacy brought the issue to Mickelsen’s attention. Originally hoping to get new carpets for her grandmother’s home through a radio wish request, Stacy was speechless when Mickelsen and his subcontractors volunteered to completely redo the house—for free. 

With only 10 days of planning and 5 days of nonstop work, Vivian’s home was transformed. Not only did Mickelsen and his team recarpet the whole house, they replaced appliances, countertops, furniture, plumbing, and lights; added heating and air conditioning; and insulated the entire place. Vivian, then 91, hardly recognized her own home. 

Hammers ’N Angels, Mickelsen’s nonprofit, was born from that first home makeover in 2013. Now every year, Mickelsen sorts through hundreds of home-renovation nominations, searching for who would most benefit from the program. Many recipients are veterans or young people who struggle with mental health and have never had a clean, warm home. “We want to show there’s people who care about them,” Mickelsen says. 

“People realized that their little bit of effort made a big difference.” 

—Brett Mickelsen 

Mickelsen has rallied more than 100 volunteers to complete the annual makeover, and nearly a quarter of them have been helping since the beginning. And that’s not counting everyone who donates money, materials, and food, since a major food drive is also part of the tradition. 

“People realized that their little bit of effort made a big difference,” Mickelsen says. “Not only does it change the nominated family’s life, but it changes the life of everyone who helps and donates.” 

Hammers ’N Angels has now renovated nine homes. While the COVID-19 pandemic put the team on hold for a couple of years, Mickelsen is already gearing up for this year’s project. “I love serving within my own community,” he says. “I’m able to do more good and make a difference to somebody that’s closer to me than I could going somewhere else.” 


SERVICE STORIES: In Going Forth Y Magazine shares stories of alumni making the world a better place by serving in their communities, congregations, and homes. Let us know when you see an alum going about doing good. Send your nominations (and any photos) to alumninews@byu.edu.

More From This Issue

Feature

When in Drought

There’s no getting around it—the West is drying up. Here’s what BYU experts say needs to happen.

Feature

Whatever It Takes

When her toddler son received a devastating diagnosis, a mother threw herself into the fight to find a cure.

Feature

Borrowing Light

The faith-filled words of others can provide a spark to ignite our own testimonies.

Browse the complete Fall 2022 Issue »

More Articles

True Blue

Going Forth: City of Storms

Paul Solouki’s love of service powers him through heat and mess while he cleans up after New Orleans’s latest hurricane.

Share this article:

To use more share options on your device, please scan the same QR code and open the link in the latest version of Chrome or Safari