When people are going through a crisis, friends need to come alongside of them and lend their support. That is the mission of Neighbor Brigade, a nonprofit started by my childhood friend, Pam Manikas Washek. She was diagnosed with cancer and fought the disease for a decade before losing her battle in 2012. But two years before she passed away, she decided to turn her pain into purpose by helping others experiencing similar crises. So she launched Neighbor Brigade. Volunteers sign up to bring a meal to someone struggling with a medical crisis or a death in the family. They simply drop it off in a cooler by the door. Recipients could be someone going through chemo, recovering from surgery or even just trying to find a ride to a doctor’s appointment. Neighbor Brigade has chapters around the United States, and I decided to start one in my town with another friend, Nancy, to honor Pam’s legacy. And it has brought both of us a tremendous amount of fulfillment. Nancy and I are amazed to see the wonderful work God does with this organization. The feeling of giving back to the community is an immeasurable one. The feedback we receive from the recipients truly warms our hearts. We consistently hear the same message that they don’t know what they would have done without Neighbor Brigade. One family in particular said the Neighbor Brigade cooler at their front door was like a “magic box” and they couldn’t wait to see what was in it. Another consistent message is that we have great cooks who always go above and beyond with several courses of meals and personal notes of encouragement. What gives us the greatest joy is seeing our recipients pay it forward. Most recipients have become volunteers after their crisis subsides. We even had one move to another town and start her own Neighbor Brigade chapter there. I feel God has His hands in all the wonderful things happening in my life. Pam had enormous faith in God and He probably led her to this as well. I feel like He leads me to continue on as a means of giving back to others.
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