Organizers gathered Thursday evening on a project to assist elderly and handicapped residents with property maintenance and help with the cleanup of blighted properties.
Gene Huston and Gilbert Haynes led about two dozen volunteers gathered in the Santa Fe locomotive park for the We Are 1 Chanute Facebook group and an off-shoot project called Neighbors Helping Neighbors to clean up brush and do light repairs for people in need.
“Gilbert and I needed more stuff to do, I guess,” Huston said.
He said divisions are destroying society, but the effort has already had overwhelming support.
They said they will take small steps at first.
“We’re going to play this loose because I have no idea how this works,” Haynes said.
Although addresses will be kept private, the first homeowner released his so volunteers can gather at 8 am Saturday at 1021 N. Garfield to clean up brush. They plan to load brush on trailers to be taken to the city landfill, and after the landfill closes, the trailers will be loaded again for the following Monday.
If the first yard cleanup is finished Saturday, volunteers will move on to the next address on the list. If it is not finished, they will gather again later in the week.
“Maybe it’ll be an inspiration for some of the people in the area,” Haynes said. “We can really make a big difference for some people.”
Huston said they do not want to burn out people with too much work. They do not have a timeline for the project, which will focus on helping elderly and disabled people whose property is beyond their ability to maintain. They said they want to get the properties back to where the owners can maintain it.
“We really don’t want to be a lawn-mowing service,” Haynes said.
To fund materials like paint, the group is selling signs for $15, with $5 from each sign going to the group. They also are selling T-shirts.
Volunteers will not dispose of brush by burning. Notices of when and where to gather will be posted on social media, which at this point is a private-access group.
Huston said they do not plan to file paperwork as a non-profit at the beginning. He also said they hope church groups can provide volunteers, but they are not looking at college or high school students because of liability and insurance issues.
The City of Chanute has donated $2,000 to help with supplies and has waived dump fees for the group. Donations are still needed and can be sent to Courtney Stich at Home Savings Bank.