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.
On Saturday July 20th, RTMC had the privilege of celebrating it’s volunteers and homeowners at the first annual Rebuilding Together Muscatine County “Family Picnic”.
The picnic was well attended despite the heat on that day.
Rebuilding Together Muscatine County acknowledges that without the help of our volunteers, both corporate and private, we could not exist.
Our homeowners? Well they are where our hearts are. What an honor to be able to help their lives be safer, warmer, drier.
Again, Thank you to all who help us throughout the year, whether you were able to attend the picnic or not.
Inside Seating Available!
Hello Volunteers! Hello Homeowners!
If you have volunteered with Rebuilding Together Muscatine County, in any capacity, then you are part of the RTMC family.
If you have received services from Rebuilding Together Muscatine County, in any capacity, then you are part of the RTMC family.
We want to celebrate you!
As part of that family, we would like to invite you to a “Family Picnic” at the RTMC office; 1424B Houser St. Muscatine.
Come and enjoy a burger or a hot-dog, on us.
No structured agenda, no surprise project, just our way of saying Thank You!
Saturday, July 20, 12-2 pm
We hope to see you there!
Here at Rebuilding Together Muscatine County,
we do what we do,
Because It Just Needs Done.
Some days are made sweeter by the people that we serve.
Today was one of those days.