CdA Duo Start Contagious Chain Of ‘Paying It Forward’

COEUR D’ALENE — There’s is a story of inspiration, proof that even in hard economic times the spirit of “paying it forward” endures.

Homeless on-and-off for years, two Coeur d’Alene men set out to get their life back on track and to help complete strangers along the way. Their selfless acts quickly became contagious.

Freeman Buckhanan and his friend “Wolf” don’t have much, but they’ve been able to give more than anyone ever could have imagined.

Their giving couldn’t have come at a better time, just as the homeless population in north Idaho began to rise.

“This just isn’t a problem on the streets of L.A., this is a problem on the streets of the world,” said Freeman.

Along the way, the two have met many a character in their same position.

“For five years I was living out in the brush, hiding from police,” said Edward Matt.

From the railroad tracks, to the dug out at McKuen Field.

“I lived by the baseball diamond, by Fernan Park down there by the dock,” said Wolf.

They have lived everywhere and anywhere to escape the weather.

“It gets pretty cold at night,” said Wolf.

A rusty burn barrel in the middle of the woods marks where Freeman and Wolf lived last year.

“There used to be a lot of people… at one time probably a couple dozen people staying down here,” said Freeman.

Combined, Freeman and Wolf have been homeless for the past 23 years. The pair left their most recent camp in December when Patty McGruder, an outreach worker with Dirne Clinic, showed them how to get into a home

“It’s really nice, sure beats a tent,” said Wolf.

Now each has a house key and a bedroom of their own.

“I like it because it’s quiet,” said Freeman.

Within 24 hours of moving in, the pair knew there were others just like them who needed help too.

“I just told them, ‘You don’t owe me anything for reaching my hand out to you,'” said McGruder. “All I want is for [them] to help the next person coming along.”

People like Kasey Chapman, who at just 25-years-old received a devastating diagnosis.

Chapman, a single mom had a double Mastectomy at Kootenai Medical Center. While in surgery, Freeman and Wolf, who had never met Kasey, waited at the hospital.

“I didn’t even know they were there,” said Chapman. “I had no idea and I think that is really awesome that they were silently supporting me.”

Patty had worked with Chapman before and knew she needed help.

“I spent enough time in my life with negativity, so this is a way to do something to feel positive and actually do something positive,” said Freeman.

With McGruder’s help, Freeman and Wolf filled chapman’s fridge with food and found a brand new mattress for her apartment. She came home from the hospital with everything she needed to recover.

Chapman was so inspired by Freeman and Wolf’s generosity that she invited her friend Tyler, who didn’t have a place to live, to stay with her.

It was now Tyler’s turn to pay it forward, so he gave his fifth wheel to Anita Bozarth and her husband.

“Oh, it’s wonderful,” said Anita. “I’ve never had anyone offer me anything like that before.”

Before Tyler’s fifth-wheel, Anita had been living in a tarp-covered camper shell for months.

“It gave me more hope in life, to go on and keep going,” she said.

At the same time, Jerry Horton and Edward Matt wanted to get off the streets. Freeman and Wolf helped them move into a one bedroom apartment in downtown Coeur d’Alene.

“They helped go meet with the landlord… as an advocate to say, if you help them out we’ll make sure they have all the support,” said McGruder.

Freeman even painted the place before the two moved in.

“That was pretty cool man, it really was, I mean these guys really stepped up for us,” said Matt.

Freeman and Wolf gathered furniture for the place, they managed to get everything donated.

“I mean everything in this house, I mean we had nothing, nothing,” said Horton.

Even the knives in the kitchen were provided free of charge.

“I could open up a professional kitchen with all these knives,” said Horton.

For three months Kristy Petersen and her three kids bounced from motel to motel, but now things are looking up for them too.

“You never think that you’ll be in that position where you don’t have a home,” said Petersen.

When she needed help moving into a new place, Freeman and the others were right there to pay it forward.

“They were so much help, I mean, I didn’t even know these people, I didn’t know people like that existed really,” she said.

McGruder has worked with the homeless for 19 years; in that time she has never witnessed those with so little, give so much.

“It really isn’t measured on what you have or what you don’t have, it’s more measured on what you can do,” said Freeman.

30 days is all it took to help a dozen people, a dozen people who are on a mission to help a dozen more.

“Isn’t that the way life is supposed to be, when one person helps one person, they turn around and help another,” said Anita.

Freeman and Wolf have no plans to give up their mission anytime soon.

“Everyday, if we can do something good everyday, that’s all I want to do,” said Freeman. “If we can do one thing nice a day then I’ll feel like I’m worthwhile, it’s worth getting up for that day.”

Paying it forward, anyway they can.

“There’s still more people out there, still more things need to get done,” said Freeman. “We can’t give up now, besides, we’re on a roll, there’s no reason to stop now.”

As of press time, Freeman and Wolf have helped a total of 25 people and they’re still going.