New Opportunities for RTMC

March 7, 2020

After a year of refurbishing, Building Together Muscatine County sells first home

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.”