HELPING HANDS

Volunteers help repair Q-C veterans’ homes

2012-11-09T23:42:00Z 2012-11-11T05:48:13Z Volunteers help repair Q-C veterans’ homesJennifer DeWitt The Quad-City Times
November 09, 2012 11:42 pm  • 

Two dozen Quad-Citians showed their true colors Friday as they offered a helping hand to apartment complex for veterans in east Davenport.

The volunteer effort, was coordinated by Rebuilding Together, a group that works to bring affordable home ownership and revitalize neighborhoods, provided repairs and improvements for the residents of the Katz Home, located in the 1200 block of College Avenue.

Volunteers from Home Depot, Deere & Co., Wells Fargo and Iowa Mortgage Association put in a full day’s work as they scraped paint, repainted, installed lighting and completed other fix-its at the four-plex.

“This is a fun day for us and a great opportunity to give back,” said Carollyn Gehrke, a Deere project manager and Rebuilding Together’s treasurer. “It actually means more when you think that it’s for veterans.”

Gehrke, who led a team of 12 Deere volunteers, said the outreach is part of an ongoing effort by the Moline-based manufacturer as it celebrates its 175th anniversary this year.

“We have quite a few volunteers who are IT folks who you wouldn’t know — because they sit at a computer all day — that they’d be good at painting and fixing things. But they are,” she said.

Rod Jennings, the executive director of Rebuilding Together, said the nonprofit agency helps many low-income, physically challenged and elderly Quad-Citians each year. Each spring and fall, it sends volunteers into homes across the Quad-Cities to make critical repairs and other improvements.

“The mission of the national Rebuilding Together is veterans and it’s a priority of Rebuilding Together Quad-Cities to do at least one veterans project, sometimes more, a year,” Jennings said.

The Katz House, he said, was purchased a year ago by the Ecumenical Housing Council, which partnered with Rebuilding Together to renovate the apartment complex. While three of the four apartments are occupied by a veteran and/or their families, he said the council hopes to eventually make the apartments exclusively for veterans.

The project, completed just days ahead of Veterans Day, also marked the first time Rebuilding Together partnered with the Bettendorf Home Depot store.

“Home Depot has a ‘Heroes at Home’ program nationally, and we did three of those homes,” Jennings said. “This was the first time we worked with the local store.”

Nicole Iossi, the store’s manager, said she has gotten to know Jennings because he purchases supplies for the agency at her store. She applied for a $3,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation for Rebuilding Together, which covered the cost of supplies for the Katz Home project and will help pay for foundation work next spring. “Home Depot, as a company, is big in its support of our veterans,” Iossi said.

In addition, she brought about 10 store employees and a district manager to provide labor on the one-day job. Known as Team Depot, the volunteer effort was coordinated by Maggie Siegler, a store supervisor and the team captain.

The team tries to do a volunteer, work project each quarter, Siegler said. This project, which improved the four occupied apartments, included drywall, painting, electrical work and other aesthetic improvements.

For the veterans living at the Katz House, the volunteers’ efforts were a welcome surprise and a boost.

Army veteran Bill Thiering, who has lived there 2ƒ years, said the volunteers were doing work “I couldn’t do myself.”

His next door neighbor and fellow Army vet, Dennis Tate, lives there with his wife, Lucinda, and three daughters. Tate credited another program — Wish List Quad-Cities, a project of the Quad-City Times and United Way — with helping him get the apartment in 2007. At that time, he was homeless and living at the Salvation Army when the program and a veteran’s organization helped grant his wish for a home for his family.

Now five years later, he said the property needed some sprucing up “all work he couldn’t do himself.”

“We sure appreciate all their work,” he said. “It means a whole lot and just shows you people out there still care about veterans.”

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