Mike Holmes’s long-time motto, “Make it right”-it’s even tattooed on his arm-is something the 46-year-old building celebrity has come by honestly. Holmes’s father, a former engineer at General Motors and handyman supreme, taught his son the basics of home repair when he was barely old enough for grade school. At six, Holmes was already doing basic electrical work. (“Don’t try that at home!” he warns parents.) By 12, he was renovating whole basements, and before he turned 20, he had his own contracting firm.
And he hasn’t stopped. Between his TV series Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection, his weekly newspaper column, his books and Holmes magazine, the hard-working Holmes is a one-man media machine. “I practise the values my dad taught me: Never screw anyone, and honesty is the key,” he says.
“Home renovation has become a money grab,” he laments. “There are just too many people who have no idea what they’re doing.”
To address the shortage of skilled tradespeople, his charitable Holmes Foundation supports youth training in skilled building trades through scholarships and bursaries, and offers financial incentives for employers to hire apprentices.
Holmes’s efforts to rid the world of bad renovation also reach beyond borders. Last year, he travelled to New Orleans to take on reconstruction efforts in the Lower Ninth Ward, an area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The idea came after linking up with Brad Pitt’s foundation (coincidentally called “Make it Right”), which is building affordable storm-resistant homes. The results were documented in Holmes in New Orleans, a Gemini-Award-winning documentary series.
In 2009 Holmes visited Kenya and Tanzania with the nonprofit SOS Children’s Villages Canada, which gives orphaned and abandoned children a home.
“There’s no question that SOS Children’s Villages is doing it right,” Holmes says. “They’re offering real hope and change, one child at a time.”
This is one celebrity who has kept his feet on the ground-and a hammer close at hand.
This article was originally published in the May 2010 issue of Reader’s Digest. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!