Pay It Forward announces 2022 project, biggest in its nine years

Published 7:15 pm Monday, February 7, 2022

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Pay It Forward has announced its recipient family for this year. The annual remodel will benefit the family of Chol Opiew, who was murdered while visiting Ethiopia in November.

The work, which will begin on March 6, will essentially shore up some work that Opiew had always intended to get to.

“His intentions were to finish some stuff with the house,” said Gina Grundmeier. “We’re basically going to take that over. We can’t take away what happened to their dad, but there is a lot of stuff that we can address in the house.”

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Specifically, there are a pair of bathrooms in the house that both need work, including an ongoing leak in the main floor bathroom that leaks directly onto the furnace below and an upstairs bathroom with a shower that’s just too small.

“These boys are six-foot and up,” Grundmeier said. “The ceiling in the upstairs bathroom is six foot.”

The spirit of Pay It Forward is a mirror for Opiew himself, who chose to be a major contributor to the community of Austin.

He worked with Amnesty International at Riverland Community College, became the first chairperson for the Sudan People Liberation Movement for the Austin chapter in 2006, was involved in the African Asian Refugee Services Agency  and served as interpreter for Anyuak families for Austin Public Schools.

“My father is the type of man who puts other people before himself. My dad is also a very hard worker and an amazing father,” said his son Ochain Okey back in November. “Providing for six children on his own, getting his degree, and working multiple jobs is not easy. Even through tough times, he persisted and pushed forward with a bright smile on his face.”

It’s what Grundmeier saw in the essay nominating Opiew’s family from neighbor Tom and Alicianne Fritz.

“His entire spirit was of community and everything he did in the community,” she said.

The Fritz’s laid out the story of Opiew’s family in their essay, citing the impression left on his own family.

“From the very first year that we knew them in 2005, we knew that this family was special and we wanted to be a part of their lives,” the Fritz’s wrote. 

With his passing, Opiew leaves six children and his father’s cousin.

This will be the ninth project and will be the largest Pay It Forward project to date, with the crew likely to begin the same day the family moves into the hotel, earlier than normal but with the same goal of project completion within a week. The reveal is planned for March 11.

“We’ve got a bunch of great companies,” Grundmeier said with a laugh. “We can do it. It might be chaotic and long.”

If anybody would like to volunteer, they should contact Grundmeier at 1-507-460-9025.

If people would like to make a donation to help fund the project, checks can be sent to:


2022 Project

PO Box 442

Austin, MN 55912

— Rocky Hulne contributed to this story