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QUAD-CITIZEN AWARD: Karree Fah 'sees a need and figures out a solution'

QUAD-CITIZEN AWARD: Karree Fah 'sees a need and figures out a solution'

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Karree Fah of LeClaire faced a dilemma as she left her career to become a stay-at-home mom.

The former special education teacher had been active at work and with volunteer activities. But she felt like something was missing when she was home.

The St. Louis native was in AmeriCorps after college, volunteering for a year as a literacy tutor at an elementary school in St. Louis. Then, she became a high school special education teacher and coached Special Olympics in Missouri.

When she moved to Iowa, she served on the Foster Care Review Board, and taught English as a Second Language to adults through Scott Community College.

“Like anyone else, I get a bit of a high from helping others,” she explained. “All of these things provided that feeling or that high.”

Now a 39-year-old mother of four, including 3-year old twins, Fah knew something needed to change to fulfill the helper inside of her.

“I felt like I wasn’t really making an impact on the world anymore,” Karree explained. “I was, of course — being a mother is the most important job. But, it was harder to see the impact in the day-to-day struggles of parenting.”

One night when she and her husband, Jonathan Fah, were going over the budget, they realized something — diapers and wipes were expensive. That discovery led them to form Hiney Heroes, a philanthropic group that supplies diapers to those who need them.

They have worked with various partner groups including the Salvation Army, the Mississippi Bend AEA and Edgerson’s Women’s Clinic At Community Health Care, who helped them distribute about 15,000 a month to their clients. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, they distribute them directly at events, like last Wednesday's at Rock Island County Health Department. The total has jumped to 70,000 diapers a month.

She also formed Buy Nothing LeClaire, Iowa, based on the national Buy Nothing group, where neighbors share or give away things they aren't using to neighbors who do. It can be anything from an old bike to sharing a skill like sewing lessons.

Karree Fah is this month's Quad-Citizen Award honoree. The award, a partnership between the Quad-City Times and IHMVCU, honors outstanding Quad-City area residents who go above and beyond for their community.

Anthony Ragona, can tell you it’s all for real with Karree Fah, and her husband, whose family business is Argo Moving in Bettendorf. Jonathan stores the diapers at the Argo warehouse and transports them with his trucks.

“It’s constant improvement of the world around her,” Ragona said. Ragona coaches their daughter, and nominated Karree for the award.

“She is able to say, ‘wow, there is a need in our community,'" Ragona said. "When she encounters an issue or need in the community, she figures out solutions, leads by example and mobilizes those around her towards a greater good."

That includes her effort with Buy Nothing LeClaire.

“The Buy Nothing Project brings a sense of community during a time of isolation and quarantine,” Ragona said. “Members enjoy giving as much as receiving. The project provides a sense of nostalgia for an Iowa before big box stores and Amazon deliveries, the Iowa of 100 years ago.”

Karree especially likes how it connects people. 

However one views it, Karree Fah knows she’s feeling better and helping change a troubled world in a small way.

“I try and help people when I can because it makes my heart happy and I suppose I am chasing that feeling,” she said. “It makes me feel better about the world — there is so much hate and negativity.

“But I see the good every day in our Buy Nothing group when a neighbor volunteers to help another neighbor. I see the good as people volunteer for Hiney Heroes or donate to our cause.

“I see the good when people receiving the diapers and period supplies are genuinely appreciative of what we are doing to help them. We have people that receive diapers from us stepping up to volunteer with us, now. That just about makes my heart explode.”

She also hopes she’s teaching a lesson to four of her favorite pupils.

“I hope that my husband and I are showing our children that they can have a positive impact on the world. You don’t have to have an army behind you to make a difference.”

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