BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The inaugural effort to help beautify Fort Madison’s neighborhoods got off to a rocky start, but the city now has two freshly painted and landscaped homes as a result of the work of volunteers spearheaded by Fort Madison Partners.
Last week work started on two homes, one on the east side in the 500 block of Avenue D and the other on the city’s south side on 26th Street, with scraping and prepping sessions prior to painting that took place toward the end of the week.
More than 70 volunteers worked at different, and sometimes multiple, times using equipment and supplies purchased with donations from area businesses, including a donation of close to 30 cans of paint from Kempker’s True Value Rental.
Fort Madison Partner’s Executive Director Tim Gobble said the project had a few hiccups out of the gate, but working through the first year has shown where things can be done better next year.
“We had a few trips but in the end we were able to do two really nice projects,” Gobble said. “Now that we’ve got the first one out of the way, there’s some things I’d like to do different next year including having a committee of five or six people that are experienced in different aspects of the project like landscaping, or construction to help guide the projects.”
When the project was first initiated, Gobble said the goal was to get five homes’ exteriors rehabbed.
“We just didn’t get the volunteers we needed to do that many so we cut it back to two, but in the end we had a lot of help.”
He said groups like the Iowa Fertilizer Plant and the Fort Madison Community Hospital provided a lot of volunteers and those two volunteer groups tackled the home on 26th Street.
Groups from State Farm, Fraise Auction and Real Estate, International Eye Care, Climax Molybdenum, Sunnybrook Assisted Living, FMHS students and FM Partners, and other community volunteers descended on the home on Avenue D.
An unexpected contribution came from the Iowa State Penitentiary who had been following the project in local media.
Rebecca Bowker, an executive officer with ISP, came out to assist on Friday and brought three ISP minimum security offenders to the site on Avenue D Friday morning to help finish scraping and painting the trim on the home.
Ricky Rummels, Steve Blaise, and Frank Tanke all spent about four hours on the house. Tanke took over landscaping duties on Friday after some slithery inhabitants were discovered while pulling overgrown shrubbery.
All three of the offenders said they were impressed with the community getting behind projects like this.
“The businesses in the community donated to this project and people volunteered their time. I think that’s really cool and I’m glad we could help with it,” Rummels said.