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2021 JEFFERSON AWARDS: Rusty Boruff - Living Proof of Doing a "One Eighty"

He is "Multiplying Good" by helping people impacted by crisis, poverty, and addiction live a better life.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — All over our area, there are people who are not just doing good - but Multiplying Good.

Every year, we honor them with the Jefferson Awards - a nationwide foundation that celebrates amazing acts of public service. 2021 is WQAD News 8's 7th Season of being a Jefferson Awards Media Partner, sponsored locally by Genesis Health System and Budget Blinds.

From January 14th to March 4th, News 8's Angie Sharp is introducing you to this year's nominees. To see all of our Jefferson Awards Nominees, past and present, click here.

2021 Jefferson Awards: Rusty Boruff

From Marquette Street in Davenport, Iowa, there's an old church in an old neighborhood, but the people here - and the area - are doing a One Eighty.

"This is one of the hardest communities when it comes to poverty and crime from south Chicago to east St. Louis. This is it," explains Rusty Boruff. 

At the center of this community is Rusty, who is living proof of what doing a One Eighty means.

"I couldn't shake the addiction that I had in my life and ended up homeless and in jail," he recalls. "But right before I'm getting ready to be sentenced, someone barged in the courtroom and they said 'It's a boy' and that's how I found out I was having a son and I remember the emotions of that moment – one of the most exciting moments of your life and you want to hug someone or celebrate and literally the only thing I could think of – shackled there, waiting, looking at 14 years – was who's going to teach my son to play catch? I'm going to miss his first hit and all those thoughts went rushing through my head and that was the moment that I was like I got to do something different in my life."

Rusty was only sentenced to one year, but when he got out - he kept thinking about the people still in:

"My heart was really back in jail where I was with these guys, because I saw so many of them say they wanted to change, but when they got out they were placed right back in the same circumstances that got them there in the first place."

That's how One Eighty began. 

"We bought our first trailer at end of 2009 for $500 and that was kind of the beginning and it was just simple – we were throwing guys in there to give them a place to live and then it just gradually grew to what it is today," he explains.

More than 10 years later, the nonprofit is catching on to the need of every age - creating after-school programs like little league teams, driving a mobile food pantry around the area, and transforming more than 20 properties off Marquette and West 6th Street in Davenport. 

One of those properties is an old school that is now the One Eighty Achievement Center. It's where volunteers mentor men and women who were just like Rusty:

It was clear to me that this man that had been through so much and had done so much good," says one of those volunteers - retired Augustana College Professor, Dr. Paul Olsen, who nominated Rusty for the Jefferson Awards. "Everybody who works with him and under him and participates in the program goes out and spreads that good out there."

That "program" is 14 months long and has a 90% success rate, as well as more than 120 graduates so far.

"They don't have to worry about food or clothing or job or resources – any of that, court fines. We figure all that out," says Rusty.

However, what makes it truly unique is its no Zero Tolerance Policy:

"I can't count how many crack houses I've walked into with our staff, how many bars we've walked into to pull one of our residents out, because we feel like if they make a commitment to come here, as an organization, as a staff, we're also making a commitment to them. And so, as long as they still want to change that's what we look for."

He is "Multiplying Good" by leading the way and showing how a One Eighty can happen to anyone - if they're given a chance.

To learn more about One Eighty, click here.