| Journal Star
PEORIA — When Tony Scroggins returned to Peoria a few years ago, he had a vision.
After years of being in Las Vegas and learning how to invest in real estate, he wanted to bring that knowledge here and teach people. He wanted to empower people in South Peoria, the East Bluff and the North Valley to become home and business owners.
“I came back here and saw how bad it was and specifically how bad it was for African Americans; I knew there was something I wanted to do to make it better,” he said. “By teaching people how to fix homes, they can actually get these properties, fix them up and have a decent place to live and also give them an opportunity to make money through the trades they are learning.”
Scroggins is dreaming big. He’s bought a building on Southwest Adams Street that he hopes by next summer to transform into a house-flipping university. He’s already got a few former students who have set up businesses and he’s dreaming bigger, looking at vacant land and buildings to buy up and improve.
The former Taft Homes and Harrison Homes resident says he knows what it’s like to be in an area where there is little to look at other than blight. And that’s why he’s so excited. Hearing him talk is infectious. He recently gave a tour of his building, pointing out the future office spaces, conference rooms and classroom areas. He’s excited about the future.
“I know this is risky and I know it’s going to take some money, but it’s what I want to do. I want to make it better for the people who live here,” he said, noting that home ownership and pride in a neighborhood often drives other bad influences away.
“When you look around and you see people who are burning down neighborhoods in other cities, they aren’t burning down their things. They don’t own that. I want to change that. I want to help people become successful, to learn how to invest in real estate and go from making $1,200 a month to $6,000 a month or more,” he said recently.
To that end, he’s created a company called TeachMe2Flip that offers classes and mentoring for free to many. Others, he said, hire him to consult. And still others have become “competition” to his own house-flipping business, but he’s okay with that.
Denise Moore, the 1st District council representative, says Scroggins isn’t the first to embrace the idea, but he’s been the one who has been able to devote the time to it.
“There are other people who are already in town who have been trying to do that very same thing, but they had other jobs and were not able to put in as much full-time effort,” she said.
A long-time advocate of reinvesting in South Peoria, Moore embraces what Scroggins is trying to do.
“There are all these vacant and abandoned properties that are here in Peoria,” she said. “We have torn down more than 300 houses and it hasn’t really made a dent. As I have said, we can’t tear down our way to a better community. We have to build up what we have here. He’s in favor of my efforts to rebuild what we have.
“He’s teaching hands-on how to bring a property from a disrepair to something that someone would want to own,” Moore said. “That’s exactly what needs to happen in many parts of the 1st District.”
And it’s not like there aren’t plenty of opportunities. Between being hired by an existing homeowner or buying a parcel, there are plenty of houses or as Scroggins said, “there’s plenty of business to go around.”
One of those competitors is Curtis Bonds. The 30-year-old joined up with Scroggins three years on a whim. He had seen the Facebook post and decided to give it a try. He had no idea how to do much of anything when it came to renovating a house.
“I wasn’t sure that I even knew how to operate a drill, but I met Tony and he taught me everything,” Bonds said.
Two years later, he said he started his own company, Royalty Renovations, and has his own projects. He says he’s building his knowledge to get ready to begin to buy his own property.
“I never actually thought about who was doing this work, making these homes beautiful,” he said. “I never thought that I would have that ability.”
And there’s 12-year-old AJ Gallion. Scroggins said he showed up at his job site over the summer looking for a job. He was told no, but came back a month later. The perseverance impressed Scroggins, who brought him on as an apprentice.
In those few months, the boy has learned how to put up drywall, paint, do interior demolition and other work. He wants to go into this line of work, he said, because it’s a way to make some money.
And that’s what Scroggins wants to see. He wants to provide a way for people to learn to help themselves.
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