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by Jacob Lane · May 21, 2014


They gathered at the middle school to receive job assignments at 7 a.m., some brand-new, others returning once again. Weary eyed, they received their orders and scattered.

The forces traveled to their positions and promptly rolled up their sleeves. Most of the community was still asleep, but here they were on the front lines.

Operation Rebuild West Liberty was a go.

Rebuilding Together Muscatine struck West Liberty Saturday, May 17, repairing and fixing up three homes in the community.

Part of the larger, nationwide 30-year-old renovation group Rebuilding Together (RT), the group finds low-income families and, over the course of one very busy day, improves their home.

"It felt like a school day, but on the weekend, when we woke up," said eighth grader Victoria Peach, "But it's pretty fun because you don't get to work on a house everyday."

She was part of the nearly 40 FFA members to join the efforts. The group paid special attention to the house on East Fourth Street, where they focused on repainting the roof and exterior of the home.

All the while cars sped by, honking at the excitable bunch of workers. While it was a long day full of work, most of them found it to be worth it.

"It feels fulfilling and helps you feel better about yourself because you’re helping your community and you’re helping those who are less fortunate," said Trevor Meyers, eighth grader and member of the FFA program.

Meanwhile, nearly a block away community members helped redo the interior of a house on Spencer Street.

One of those workers, Keith Garrett of Muscatine, has been a part of RT Muscatine's efforts since it began several years ago.

"It's my turn to help give back," he said. "I'm getting ready to retire and volunteerism is something that I can give back."

This was RT Muscatine's first time in West Liberty. Even though it's pulled off over 40 projects in Muscatine since its inception, it had yet to expand beyond the city.

"The people of West Liberty have never heard of RT although it has been around in Muscatine since 2007," Executive Director of the Muscatine County branch Frank Iliff said, "It is a national organization with almost 200 affiliates."

He's been actively searching for communities outside of Muscatine. At a council meeting several months ago he approached the city about a day dedicated to rebuilding WL.

"When I spoke at the city council meeting… the library took some applications and gave them out. Three came back and they all three fit into our income guidelines," said Iliff.

Those three homes received improvements throughout the day. From floors to roofs, RT focuses on heightening the quality of life for its recipients.

For the third home, all the way over on Gibson Street, Iliff worked with another family from Muscatine to install a brand new wheelchair ramp.

Before the big day of repair, RT typically attempts to get as much done on the homes as it can to make the day go off smoothly. The ramp they installed was prebuilt days before in RT Muscatine's workroom, then installed at the home on Saturday.

RT Muscatine also worked with a contractor to rebuild the roof on the home at Fourth Street before the FFA spent the day painting the home.

But make no mistake, it's still a long day of work. Iliff reaches out for volunteers through the radio, TV and word of mouth before the day of rebuilding begins.

In the end, it comes at no cost to the recipients of the repairs. All they had to do was fill out an application. Because this was RT's first time in West Liberty only three homes signed up, and all three were chosen.

But this won't be its last time, according to Ilifff.

"I would like to return and work with the people of West Liberty again," he said. "There is a need and no other group anywhere does what Rebuilding Together does. We put value back into homes and therefore into communities."

Now that RT Muscatine has broken through the ice, it would like to see the number of projects and volunteers increase the next time around. Look out West Liberty, volunteerism has struck.

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