NAPLES — Boundary County residents have a sense of community that far surpasses many other areas. People wave at friends and strangers alike as they drive down the road; motorists are not often left stranded on the side of a road for long before someone stops to help; people help their neighbors shovel snow or chop firewood.
The situation that Makana Zito Hashimoto, known to his friends as Kana, found himself in, was a tough one — and the community stepped up to help.
Hashimoto was diagnosed at an early age with autism and is now 25 years old. He was raised by his grandmother, living a semi-independent life with her. Tragically, a series of events unfolded at the end of 2018, and he lost his grandmother first to cardiac problems. Then his aunt, who was in line to take care of him, took her own life.
Hashimoto was suddenly alone.
“Kana was my next door neighbor. The call came in when the aunt committed suicide and I knew the family well,” said South Boundary Fire Chief Tony Rohrwasser. “The grandmother employed a lot of people around the area. She was a real nice, nice lady.”
Rohrwasser was first on scene that night.
“At that point nobody really had a definite plan of what do we do with an adult that can’t look after himself,” he said. “I know from seeing the house that he pretty much does his own thing, but I didn’t know how much he could take care of himself.”
Rohrwasser took action and reached out to Candy Beck, who runs Bonners Ferry Adult Social that works with adults with developmental disabilities.
“The day after Christmas the officers brought him to my house,” said Beck. “Instantly his life changed. He lost his family, his natural support.”
Although Hashimoto had great care there, he was used to living a semi-independent life, and living among a group of people was difficult for him to adapt to. People stepped up to help him. Aspen Personal Care has a hand in watching over him, while Rohrwasser also takes time to take him shopping for food and checking in on him while he is at home.
“From those of us who have been working with him, we feel that he would do well by himself, or would do just as well with another person in a home, but in a group home he just wouldn’t do well,” said Rohrwasser. “He has been subject to a lot of new stuff in the last little while.”
While the eventual goal is to find a house for him to live, the plan relies on selling his grandmother’s house, and currently it is stuck in probate, leaving him without many options. Hashimoto must move out of the house so it can be cleaned and sold.
“The estate isn’t settled. We are still going through probate and meeting with the attorneys and the crisis team from Coeur d’Alene,” said Beck. “He has got a lot of support but at this point it is not looking like he’s going to be able to hang onto the home.”
Rohrwasser took action and the South Boundary Firefighters Association, with help from the Helping Hands of Naples, threw a spaghetti feed fundraiser on Saturday, March 9, at the South Boundary Fire Station No. 1 in Naples.
People were treated to a full spaghetti meal with a large array of desserts, all for a donation of their choice. People even showed up before the dinner began to drop off donations to help Hashimoto.
When the dinner ended, $3,200 had been raised to help Hashimoto find an apartment for a few months. Beck explained that it will be very important to find him a place to stay in Boundary County.
“With an adult affected with autism, everything is very ritualized and a transition is very difficult,” said Beck. “He wants to remain in his town, and that is what we are doing — we are supporting our community and our people within our community, and we are going to make it happen for him.”
The community proved again that they are their to reach out a hand to those that need it.
“There is a lot of people who want to continue to support him even after we get him established in a home, which is wonderful,” said Beck.
If you have any questions or would like to assist, please contact Tony Rohrwasser at 208-290-2613.