BOISE, Idaho — The Boise Airport Chapel aims to make flight delays and cancellations a little less of a hassle with a new initiative that would connect travelers in distress to immediate help.
Paul Okeny, a chaplain at the Boise airport, said he frequently saw visitors entering the chapel seeking support.
“Twice I saw people come in and sleep (on the floor) when they had nothing to help them get to the hotel, and their flight was cancelled,” Okeny said.
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He also saw flight passengers in distress — from flight nervousness to mental illness and other concerns, Okeny said.
Although not common knowledge, Boise Airport has had an on-site chapel for nearly 15 years. Tucked away on the ground floor, next to car rental services, the chapel connects people to airport services and prayer.
Chapel founder Warren Milanowski said the organization wanted to do more, providing emergency items to travelers in need.
“When the need arises, it is a need that must be helped now,” he said.
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The idea is a collaborative effort between the chapel and the Boise Police Department, which helps patrol the airport. After finding a young mother crying in a hall, Chaplin Jon Dobson said organizations started discussing the need for air travel resources last year.
The woman was traveling with her two young children, Dobson said. She told police her flight was delayed overnight and the family’s luggage left without them.
“She had nothing here with her,” Dobson said. “She couldn’t call home for help because she was fleeing a domestic abuse situation.”
Dobson said police found a hotel, food, transportation and diapers in the family. However, the event sparked a broader conversation about how to help unexpectedly stranded travelers who need non-life-threatening medical attention or who need some other type of help.
“We could be a resource point for those looking for that kind of help,” Dobson said. “From food stamps to a room in a hotel… There should be a way to give them a way to get potential donations and resources.”
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Malinowski said the chapel has already reached out to local nonprofits such as United Way of Treasure Valley and Idaho Diaper Bank, but more help is needed.
“You’re not going to find another airport in the country with something like this. You know, Boise is a giving community,” he said. “We would love to be able – when the situation arises – to help someone through a difficult time.”
Individuals and organizations interested in helping the chapel can contact Malinowski at [email protected]