Leah Keller, left, and Melissa Gary, right, established Chris’ Heart Fund in April 2022 to benefit local families across Poweshiek County who are facing disaster or hardship by meeting immediate needs to lessen the burden of a crisis. The fund is named in honor of Leah’s late husband, Chris Keller, who died in the aftermath of the derecho in August 2022. The two ladies were recently honored by the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation for their work in helping others.
By J.O. Parker
Turing tragedy into action is something that Leah Keller and Melissa Gary took to heart early last year when the duo established Chris’ Heart Fund.
The fund benefits local families across Poweshiek County who are facing disaster or hardship by meeting immediate needs to lessen the burden of a crisis.
It was set up to honor Melissa’s brother and Leah’s late husband, Chris Keller, who was killed in the aftermath of the derecho in August 2020.
Melissa came up with the idea for the fund and she shared it with Leah and the two worked together to establish the fund in April 2022.
“I wouldn’t have done anything without her,” said Melissa.
Since establishing the fund, Leah and Melissa said four families have been helped with everything from gas money to paying their rent and also providing food at a funeral luncheon.
“We were also able to give a small gift to each of our Poweshiek County Officers during this holiday season,” said Leah.
Chris was known for his generosity and love for the Brooklyn community. At the time of his death, Chris was one month shy of serving 18-years on the Brooklyn Fire Department, three of which he was fire chief. He was employed by the Brooklyn Municipal Utilities.
When asked to share thoughts on her late husband, Leah said it would take days to tell you everything she would want others to know about him.
“I can sum it up by saying, ‘Chris was one of the most amazing, caring people you could meet,’” Leah said of her late husband. “We wanted to be able to honor Chris by continuing to give to others just as he always did.”
The Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation (GPCF) recently recognized and honored Leah and Melissa for their work with Chris’ Heart Fund.
Leah and Melissa actively seek out families that might benefit from a helping hand when their needs are greatest. Anyone can reach out to Melissa (641-990-0095) or Leah (641-990-4561) at any time if they know of someone in need.
“We then take the request to our board and do what we can to help ease a little bit of that burden,” said Leah.
Donations to the fund are tax deductible and checks can be sent to the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation in care of Chris’ Heart Fund, P.O. Box 344, 1510 Penrose St., Grinnell, Iowa, 50112. Donations can also be made on-line at greaterpcf.org.
Leah said every donation helps keep Chris’ loving, giving heart alive.
“It means the world to us to have others donating in honor of Chris,” she said.