By Jeff Randall, Eastside News
Many of us are burdened by weights others will never see. Rare are those enlightened about life, while troubled by it. Fred Diarra was one of us — he is no longer living — yet his spirit of joy, curiosity, calm and generosity continues forth. After his death in November 2021, his mom, Kim Neuschel started Fred’s Kindness Fund to continue spreading his special energy to others.
“I taught him kindness; Fred taught me generosity and joy,” Neuschel said.
A biracial child who identified as Black, Fred was exceedingly bright, but struggled in the confines of an educational system geared less by creativity and more by control. Neuschel worried about her son, judged in society for his color, his size and not for his ready smile or tender touch. Kim related how she “lived with lots of fear and powerlessness.”
This only grew once her adult son began struggling with schizophrenia. Beset by challenges external to him, Diarra was also juggling thoughts and voices from within. He became disorganized at points, and at other times ever more present.
The paradox is that Diarra could pass an Advanced Placement Calculus exam but fail the class. Experience a thought disorder yet be able to focus on the moments which make life tolerable and unique. Moments outdoors, moments savoring a slice of cake were profound experiences. Meeting with Neuschel you feel Diarra’s energy — she is serious about the business of spreading her son’s essence to others.
“I taught him kindness; Fred taught me generosity and joy.”
With Fred’s Kindness Fund established, Neuschel used funds to purchase 40 slices of cake to be given out over one month at Madison Sourdough on Williamson Street.
“(Staff would give the cake out) whenever the feeling took us,” manager R.J. Savic said.
The cake came with a link to Diarra’s obituary and soon others were adding to the fund.
In turn, Madison Sourdough donated the money used to purchase the 40 slices of cake to Goodman’s Fritz Food Pantry in honor of Diarra.
“Donations like the one Madison Sourdough made help our food pantry to fill the gaps with food items we can’t necessarily get through our other community partners,” Francesca Frisque, GCC food pantry manager, said. “The funds were used to purchase food that Fred would have been excited about, “foodie items” that often aren’t found at food pantries, but help our customers create dishes authentic to them.”
Diarra’s friend Anna Heffernan then suggested Café Domestique, another business on Willy Street Diarra frequented, could be next. Café owner Dan Coppola reflected and decided giving drinks directly to the Goodman Community Center would have “a bigger impact.”
It was decided the impact would be greatest by delivering 25 specialty coffee drinks and food essentials, each week for four weeks, directly to the Goodman Center, thereby connecting joy beyond Café Domestique customers.
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