2022 Pay it Forward project announced

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(ABC 6 News) – Chol Okey Opiew died while visiting his home country of Ethiopia back in November.

Opiew was a father of six and a major contributor to the Austin community.

"He was very nice. He helped a lot in the community," said 8-year-old Mary Okey.

Neighbors Tom and Alicianne Fritz have lived next door to the Okey’s for 16 years and they were the ones who nominated the family for the Pay it Forward project. Because they know how much the family needs help and support.

"And all that chol has done for the community, we wanted to help them out in ways that would allow them to continue what chol would’ve wanted for them," said Tom Fritz.

"Even though it doesn’t fix our heart, it can bring a little bit of joy. And moving forward the process of living life and healing so. Something to distract us until we can heal," Alicianne said.

Chol is described by many as someone who always put others first.

"He told his kids things like ‘build community, family is important, serve others," Alicianne said.

These renovations to the bathrooms will not just benefit these kids, but they will give back to the community, just like their father did.

"By far, easily my number one motivator. Even though he’s gone today, just him and what he did and what he did for others are just… I don’t need anything else to drive me even more," said 22-year-old Opiew Okey.

"Austin has really stepped up. We’ve come together and tried to fill in the gaps and be there for the kids," Alicianne said.

Chol always wanted to fix things up around the house. And now that is happening.

"He didn’t miss a thing. It’s not going to be undone. We’re going to get it done," Alicianne said.

To help fund the project and items for the family, donations can be mailed to PayItForward 2022 PO Box 442 Austin, MN. If you’re interested in volunteering, call 507-460-9025.