Since moving to Lehigh some 12 years ago, Chris and Dalene Jost have tried to respond to the needs of their neighbors, particularly those in their senior years.
Chris has used his experience as a house builder to do repairs and other jobs?without asking for payment.
In addition, Chris has been active on the local township board and has made several improvements to the township cemetery north of town as its sexton.
These days, Chris and Dalene hesitantly concede they could use the help of some good neighbors, too.
In mid-December a fire of undetermined origin destroyed the shed behind their house, including well over $100,000 in tools, equipment and building materials.
To make matters worse, a back-draft incident sucked flames into the kitchen of the house, ruining ceilings and walls and scorching their appliances.
Without insurance to cover the losses, the shop, tools and materials have not been replaced and the interior of the house, especially the kitchen, still bears the open wounds of fire?blackened walls, ceiling joists visible behind plastic sheeting, wall studs without plaster board, unfinished floors and appliances that work despite exterior damage.
The loss of his professional equipment has limited Chris to primitive tools. Worse, multiple health issues have limited his ability to work at repairs as well as the funds needed to buy materials.
Dalene, who works full time at Norcraft?s Mid Continent Cabinetry in Newton, noted the obvious: ?We?ve been through a lot.?
But couple are quick to add that they tend to persevere.
?We love it here,? Dalene said. ?This is home.?
Charles Rempel, Hillsboro, believes the simple act of collecting aluminum cans is one way neighbors?from whatever community they hail?can make a tough situation better for the Josts.
He calls it the Love Your Neighbor Benevolence Fund.
?My desire is that if we pull the community together to collect cans?it takes a little effort, yes?we can get quite a bit (of money) actually,? he said.
Rempel got to know the Josts as a school bus driver for USD 410. He first met Chris about a year and a half ago while taking the Josts? grandson and his classmates on a field trip to the Walters Pumpkin Patch in Burns.
Since the fire, Rempel said he quietly kept an eye on the Josts? situation during his bus route through Lehigh.
?I?ve noticed clear up to May that he?s done some work?I don?t know how much inside, but the shingles weren?t on until late May,? he said. ?The siding is still not on the outside.
?My understanding is that there?s some work that needs to be done on the inside, too.?
With the Josts? permission, Rempel reinstituted the Love Your Neighbor Benevolence Fund, which Rempel first used locally to raise money for a new roof for an older Hillsboro resident. The cans covered the cost of materials, and local volunteers provided the labor to get the job done.
?I remembered what I did with (the Hillsboro resident) and I said, ?You know, this is a way we could help (the Josts).??
At this point, Rempel has set two white collection barrels at the Charlie?s Fireworks stand he is operating this week on D Street in Hillsboro, and two barrels at the Hillsboro Senior Center.
?Since I?m the vice president on the board at the Senior Center, we are doing this as a Senior Center thing,? Rempel said.
?I am trying to motivate the seniors to go out and do some knocking on doors, asking for neighborhood donations. It?s an encouragement to go out and socialize with neighbors.?
If some people would prefer to donate money, Rempel has established a Love Your Neigh?bor Benevolence Fund account at Emprise Bank in Hillsboro.
?If someone wants to donate, we?ll welcome that, too,? Rempel said. ?But I?m not asking for donations, I?m only asking for cans. We don?t turn down money, though.?
Ultimately, the goal is to make the Jost home more liveable.
?In the long run, what we want to do is to see if we can help Chris do some work, maybe sometime this fall,? he said.
?I don?t know how much money we?ll make, or how far we?ll go with this. But my basic idea is, why don?t we take the trash resources of this community and invest it in the community? I think that is a good objective, and it?s good for the community.?