As we approach our annual event, National Rebuilding Day (NRD), scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 25, we must use caution. We are closely monitoring recommendations from Iowa Gov. Reynolds as to how we can help reduce the chances of spreading the Coronavirus. At this point, all area restaurants, bars, and places of entertainment have been closed to prevent gathering. Area schools are closed for the next month, and many other businesses may soon follow.
It is with the safety of our volunteer family, as well as our clients that the advisory board has implemented the following changes for NRD 2020:
- Work will only proceed with the homeowner’s approval, which may be removed due to increased risk as time passes. If the homeowner is uncomfortable, we will reschedule for a later date.
- All volunteers will receive a medical screening on the day work is to be completed. Volunteers who are found to pose a potential risk will be thanked, provided a donut, and sent home.
- Screenings will include temperature and a questionnaire, as well as any additional information the medical team deems necessary.
- Workgroups will be assigned in groups of 6-8 to accommodate the under 10 per gathering recommendation. This number will include the House Captain.
- Volunteers will be assigned a check-in time, group check-ins will be staggered to allow for medical screenings, and to accommodate the small gathering requirements.
- No volunteers will have direct contact with any homeowner at any time.
- No volunteer will enter the resident at any time. All of the approved projects are accessibility ramps, therefore the work will be outside.
- All ramps will be cleaned and sanitized before the workgroup leaving for the day.
- All of these regulations are subject to change as more information is made available, including the potential to cancel or postpone the projects.
Due to the changes that are being set in place for 2020, our NRD will look different than in years past. Additionally, our volunteer force will need to accommodate. Within our smaller workgroups, we would like to ask returning volunteers and skilled builders who are willing to assist when needed.
For more information on how to volunteer, or with questions over the procedures in place, visit https://rebuildingtogethermuscatine.org/
Thank you for your understanding and overwhelming support over the years,
-RTMC Advisory Board
After a year of refurbishing, Building Together Muscatine County sells first home
- Andrea Grubaugh
- Mar 3, 2020
- Muscatine Journal
After a whole year of restoration and refurbishing, Rebuilding Together Muscatine County finished work on this house, 614 Mulberry Ave., allowing it to be sold as an affordable and comfortable home that Executive Director Frank Iliff says “really shines.
Frank Iliff, executive director of Rebuilding Together Muscatine County, along with a team of volunteers and contracted work crews, will convert a former office building on the corner of 7th Street and Mulberry Avenue, Muscatine, into a two-bedroom home.
MUSCATINE — One of Frank Iliff’s first jobs as a child was building a new playhouse for his little sister each time his family moved, making sure it was always built solid and safe.
“Building just comes naturally to me,” Iliff said.
As an adult, Iliff uses his skills to rebuild and repair homes across Muscatine County for those who can’t afford these services.
Rebuilding Together Muscatine County has been a successful nonprofit in the community since March 2007. This week, Iliff, executive director and founder of the Muscatine branch, announced the sale of one of the nonprofits biggest projects.
In January 2019, RTMC took possession of a city-owned house at 614 Mulberry Ave., a former Muscatine Safe Streets site, abandoned since November 2017. RTMC got to work making it a renovated, but affordable home to sell.
Working on the house was like working on a puzzle, he said.
“Every little piece added to the overall picture,” he said. “We could see it start taking shape and becoming what we knew it was going to be.”
Restoration including replacing the door frame and door so that it swung inward instead of outward, sectioning off bedrooms by putting up walls, and making sure the new cabinet doors and appliances matched. RTMC added closets and a laundry niche, installing a donated washer and dryer set.
“It’s really a tight little unit,” he added, pointing out the insulation now in the home. New carpet, new lighting and plumbing, a new hot water heater and a dehumidifier in the basement were also added. “It really shines. We wanted to make it a nice home for somebody to come into, and I believe that’s what we did.”
He had expected the project to be finished in July 2019, but it ultimately took until January 2020. But he is happy with the results.
“I am so thoroughly happy, I would jump up and down if it didn’t hurt,” he said.
Re/Max Professionals quickly sold the home, with proceeds from the sale funding other RTMC projects.
Iliff isn’t sure what the next big project will be, though he is working with the city on it.
Throughout the years, Iliff and his team have helped build 30 wheelchair ramps, widened doorways, lifted and reinforced a house, paid to have entirely new electrical and plumbing systems put in and even rebuilt entire kitchens and bathrooms. A couple of his more memorable experiences have been getting a possum nest out of a home, putting in a porch sunshade for a woman with cancer so she could go outside, and painting a Korean War veteran’s home.
“We do whatever it takes to make people safe,” said Iliff, “To keep them warm and to keep them in their home.”
RTMC doesn’t do this alone, working with other businesses in the community such as Stanley Consultants, Muscatine Electric, Rivo Plumbing, Nelsons Electric and more, he said.
“It’s a great community involvement. We pull in every specialty person we can think of and someone always steps up and helps us out.”
Iliff and his Rebuilding Together team seek volunteers for National Rebuilding Together Day on April 25, where they will be working on more wheelchair ramps as well as a few other projects.
“I tell people that if you give me nine hours, I’ll give you a T-shirt, a lunch and a day you won’t soon forget,” he said.
“I wouldn’t want to do anything else, and (these projects) are a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s crazy and chaotic, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Frank Iliff, Rebuilding Together Muscatine County’s executive director, keeps an extra shirt in his truck, but not because rebuilding homes is sweaty work. It’s because the shirt he wears is often soaked with tears by the end of the day.
“The homeowners we help will hold me and hug me and cry,” Frank said. “Once, I was hugged by a war veteran after our Rebuilding Together Muscatine County volunteers put a new sidewalk, kitchen sink and bathroom vanity in his home. He’d been so hardened by life, and he just stood there in my arms and cried and cried. It’s that kind of thing that gives me the impetus to carry on.”
Frank has done much more than just carry on. Since he founded Rebuilding Together Muscatine County in 2007, the organization—and Frank—have become fixtures in the local community. Muscatine is both a city and a county stretched along a scenic bend of the Mississippi River on the southeast edge of Iowa. Around 24,000 people live within the city’s borders, and the county has about twice as many residents. Tourists tend to call Muscatine a sleepy town, all while praising its spectacular sunsets and Iowan charm.
“My family and I have lived here for 30 years. Arriving in Muscatine was the first time I felt like I had a real home town. Though I haven’t lived here my whole life, I’m from here now. I’m a Muscatiner.”
Frank had always wanted to devote all his working hours to Rebuilding Together Muscatine County. But with his career set on a different path, he’d instead pressed ahead as its volunteer leader, fitting it into his schedule whenever possible. “Once I turned 66,” he explained, “I could get social security and make it happen.” In 2018, after decades working swing shifts at a local corporation, Frank retired from the private sector. Today, Frank is Rebuilding Together Muscatine County’s full-time executive director and first paid employee.
Now that Frank is free to devote himself fully to Rebuilding Together Muscatine County, his ambitions have grown. In summer 2019, the organization took on its first remodel of an entire building. Frank and his volunteers put in two bedrooms, a full kitchen, laundry room, shower and more into the small former office space. Once the transformation is complete, it will become a new home for a local family in need.
These kind of comprehensive home repairs are sorely needed for Muscatine to flourish. According to a 2017 study, the county’s existing housing is its largest economic asset. However, most of the existing housing is older and needs maintenance and rehabilitation. As a result, Muscatine County doesn’t have enough homes that people earning the lowest incomes can afford. More and more, people over age 55 are leaving Muscatine in part because their homes are not places where they can comfortably and safely grow older.
There’s little chance Frank would ever leave Muscatine.
“What makes me stay is the people. The people are just the best. When there’s a need, they step up. They step up and they go out of their way. They just do. I’ve had hundreds of volunteers show up to fix up their neighbors’ homes just by simply asking for help.”
Frank intends to make Rebuilding Together a household name in Muscatine County and beyond. He explained his plans: “The need in this area is so great. I want to get the word out more in Muscatine County about the work we do. Then I want to bring Rebuilding Together into other counties to help even more people and communities.”
To start on these goals, Frank has already joined the Rotary Club of Muscatine and become an ambassador with the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is sitting down with local corporate leaders to figure out the best way to get them involved in Rebuilding Together Muscatine County’s home repair projects.
Frank also has an eye on the long term in another way. “I have seven grandkids. They’ll sometimes help out on our home rebuilding days. That means I’ve got seven really important people watching me and learning from me.”
Rebuilding Together is really about hard-working, compassionate people helping other people. Volunteer with your local Rebuilding Together affiliate and become a partner in your community.
Tonight’s board meeting for Rebuilding Together began with a special presentation by Mary Jo Fitzgerald, presenting our chapter founder and executive Director Frank Iliff with a Quilt of Valor.
He was surprised.
She stated this is her 29th quilt, and the first presentation of 2020.
Frank served in the US Navy on the USS Hancock during Vietnam.
Our chili supper has been postponed!
Due to the impending weather conditions, the Chili Cook Off has been rescheduled for Saturday, February 1, from 5-9 pm, in the Calvary Family Life Center. Stay safe and warm!
We recently received an exciting letter!
In it, the sender speaks of what has been in the heart of our Executive Director for several years.
It is only with the sharing of gifts, talents and treasures that Rebuilding Together Muscatine County can continue to expand it’s reach into the community.
Rebuilding Together Muscatine County is Repairing homes, revitalizing the community. and changing lives.
One home at a time.
It was great talking with you this afternoon. I have been watching with great interest the work you are doing on the former Safe Streets office and I am excited to see what happens when the Lord gives one of his servants a vision for what He can do through them to help others. I am enclosing my personal check for $1,000.00 and pray that it will encourage you to keep on keeping on. Little is much when God is in it 🙂
I hope you are able to get the house across the street …what a difference that will make to our neighborhood… one house at a time. I love your vision of one block at a time. My prayer will be that others will catch on to your vision and you will have more than enough funding as well as workers.
I pray you and family will have a blessed Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year!!!!
Join us in the New Year as we continue to build safe homes in our community.
The dream is large, yes.
But we can do it.
It Just Needs Done.
Frank shares his insights and stories about volunteering and Rebuilding Together at the United Way Volunteer Lunch -- November 21, 2019.