‘Our pace is not slowing down’
Mullins is new director for local Habitat chapter
Rod Mullins strongly believes that having a well built and safe home to live in sets people up for success.
“Having a house where you can say, ‘This is our home,’ it anchors them,” said Mullins, who recently became executive director of Twin Rivers Habitat for Humanity.
Mullins’ belief ties in with the mission of Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit Christian-based organization dedicated to helping qualified families achieve home ownership.
“Most people associate Habitat, as they well should, with helping needy families with good, safe housing,” Mullins said. “And generally speaking, the normal vision is a group of volunteers getting together to erect a new house for somebody and that certainly is what we do.”
The Twin Rivers chapter has built 25 houses since it was established in 1991. It serves the counties of Humboldt and Webster for building homes.
But Mullins, who began his new role on Aug. 1, said the nonprofit works in other ways to help people, too.
“We also take, when appropriate and available, take and refurbish a house for somebody when that is an option,” Mullins said.
Habitat is also involved in a program to help veterans or spouses of veterans get new roofs for their homes.
“If someone needs a wheelchair ramp, different things that people are in need of, we will certainly do what we can to help them out,” Mullins said. “And also our vision is to oftentimes, there are resources in this community that are not known and our goal is to become an exchange point.
“We want to get to the point where people associate us with identifying a need and we want to be able to match what resources are already available to help as many people as possible.”
One of the primary ways Habitat funds its efforts is through the ReStore, located at 118 N. 12th St. Items such as paint and building materials for home improvement projects are sold there. The items such as doors, windows, sinks, cabinetry and trim are generally salvaged from homes.
“We use the ReStore as a source of income to provide the monies, as one source of monies, to build houses or have funds available to refurbish houses,” said Mullins, an Eagle Grove High School graduate and former accountant. “That’s the other side of the coin is people who love to come here and shop. There’s a lot of people looking for bargains and there’s nothing wrong with that. The notion is everyone kind of feels good participating in helping a good cause in a tangible way.”
Marcia Calmer manages the ReStore. She is also the volunteer coordinator.
“She does an excellent job,” Mullins said.
There are three paid staff at the store and consistently about three to five volunteers, said Mullins, who has worked at several co-ops in the state and once owned his own hog business before taking a position with ISG in Fort Dodge. Mullins, an Iowa State University graduate, worked at ISG as an environmental coordinator for 20 years.
He joined the Twin Rivers Habitat for Humanity board in April 2019. In January, he was elected president. Since joining the board, Mullins said he’s been volunteering and learning as much as he can about the business.
Like most entities, Habitat was adversely affected in the spring when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged.
“March, April, May, we had COVID hit and the store was shut down,” Mullins said. “Everything we were a part of was shut down.”
Still, Mullins said the store has been productive throughout the year.
“Even with COVID, the output of our store is up 41 percent from the year before,” he said. “That’s a significant number. It comes from hard work and dedication and people being on board with what we are doing. Our pace is not slowing down.”
The store plays a key role in Habitat’s success.
“Right now, part of what’s happened because of the COVID and stopping the builds, the main thing we have going on is the Habitat store,” Mullins said. “We are more than a store, but the store is a good representation for us. We restore. We repurpose. We keep a lot out of the landfill by recycling things or matching it up with someone who has a use for it.”
And Habitat is always looking for different ways to help people, Mullins said.
“What I’ve seen is how thankful people are,” he said.
About three weeks ago after an elderly woman in the community passed away, her daughter who lived in Texas, needed help.
“This lady drove up from Texas and said, ‘Can you help me empty out this apartment,'” Mullins recalled. “Our benefit was she donated a lot of furniture, but her appreciation for someone coming and helping her was very evident and strong. We see this a lot where there’s kids who live out of state who come back to deal with mom and dad’s belongings. Yes, there’s value in donating, but having an outlet, so they aren’t faced with, ‘What do I do now,’ plays an unsung or untalked about role.”
In his role, Mullins will work where needed.
“I get involved with everything from someone calls in and says, ‘We have this item we wish to donate, would you take it?'” Mullins said. “Well, can they bring it to us, well if they can’t, we will physically go to someone’s house and load up the donations. Usually there’s two of us. I get involved in that quite a bit. Being new, I like to go out and visit with people and what they are thinking and try to listen. I think it’s important to listen. You learn a lot more listening than speaking. Finding out what we do well and need to improve upon.”
Mullins is happy to be part of an organization that can change lives.
“I think it’s important that we responsibly get to where we have a much more visible presence in the community where we are tangibly fixing up houses,” Mullins said. “It will be a while, but I want to see us where we can sustain building one house a year.
“Housing is a huge deal and there’s a big need for it. A family that grows up in its own home has sense of ownership and pride for taking care of it and having this knowledge of this is where I belong.”
The ReStore is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.
To volunteer with Twin Rivers Habitat for Humanity, visit the ReStore or call 515-576-4316.