Supporters and organizers of the Neighbor2Neighbor program remember the contributions one volunteer made, and may still be making.
Chris Aday, 62, passed away Dec. 31 and had been involved with Neighbor2Neighbor almost since its beginning in the summer of 2018.
Lisa Chauncey said she became involved with the program because of her concern that children out of school might not get enough to eat. She saw families in need and started making emergency boxes on a small scale.
Aday, having retired from Ash Grove Cement, looked for ways to keep active and wanted to donate to a coat drive. He facilitated a connection between the program and First Baptist Church with its minister DJ Dangerfield.
“Chris was fearless,” Chauncey said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has seen both its numbers and the need compound. Chauncey said they started with 24 boxes a month, and thought 100 boxes a month was a lot.
“What we did in a month, we’re seeing more than that in a week,” she said.
Dangerfield said Aday told him what Neighbor2Neighbor was doing.
“I thought it was cool,” Dangerfield said. “I was enjoying the organic-ness of it.”
He said the church had a program that was not as successful as it could have been.
“This will give us something we can give our energy to one thing,” Dangerfield remembered thinking. “He knows that I’m passionate about food.
“Deep down, he knew what he was doing,” Dangerfield said, adding that Aday didn’t need to take credit, but knew how to do what was best for others.
Dangerfield said Aday was part of the reason he came to the Chanute church.
“He kind of had the conversations,” Dangerfield said. He compared Aday to singers Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson who created the genre of “Outlaw Country,” and said Aday was like that for the church.
He said Neighbor2Neighbor was the best thing that has happened since he came to Chanute in 2006.
“We were just fast friends,” Chauncey said. “You could bet on Chris.”
Chauncey said they would run ideas by Aday and he saw beyond to what they could do.
“He’s always got the next thing,” she said.
“I was the buffer,” Dangerfield said. “I’d say, ‘Chris, we can’t say that.’”
He said his last get-together with Aday was a food giveaway, and while putting away the tables, Aday talked about his next big idea.
Local grocery stores have stepped up big time to help Neighbor2Neighbor, they said, and other agencies have partnered to put hygiene bags or information on Head Start and the WIC program in boxes. High school students are helping to pack boxes and assistance is up to about 150 boxes a week.
“Who could have foreseen the pandemic?” Chauncey said.
She said an idea that was near and dear to Aday was for angel pantries, where people donate or pick up food or hygiene items. Neighbor2Neighbor is working on placing cabinets in public places, but also smaller ones in neighborhoods.
Dangerfield has been discussing the idea Aday had that last time, and he looks forward to sharing it with the church.
“He is still being influential,” Dangerfield said.
Tallying the donations from Aday’s memorial fund became emotionally difficult. Dangerfield also learned the program was awarded a $2,750 grant he didn’t know about that Aday had applied for.
“I was blown away by it,” Dangerfield said.
“He’s still getting stuff done and he’s not even here,” Dangerfield said. “But he is here.”