BOISE, Idaho — The Boise Airport Chapel aims to make flight delays and cancellations a little less challenging through a new initiative that would connect travelers in distress to immediate aid.
Paul Okeny, a chaplain at the Boise Airport, said he frequently sees visitors come into the Chapel looking for support.
"Two times, I've found people come in and sleep (on the ground) when they don't have anything to help them go to a hotel, and their flight is canceled," Okeny said.
He's also seen flight passengers in distress – from flying nervousness to mental illness and other concerns, Okeny said.
While it may not be common knowledge, the Boise Airport has housed an on-site Chapel for nearly 15 years. Tucked away on the ground floor, next to rental car services, the Chapel connects people with airport services and prayer.
Chapel founder Warren Milanowski said the organization wants to do more — by providing emergency items for travelers in need.
"When the need comes up, it is a need that has to be helped now," he said.
The idea is a collaborative effort between the Chapel and Boise Police Department, who help patrol the airport. After finding a young mother crying in a concourse, Chaplin Jon Dobson said the organizations began discussing the need for airline travel-related 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 had left without them.
"She didn't have anything here with her," Dobson said. "She couldn't call back home for help because she was fleeing an abusive spouse situation."
Dobson said police found the family a hotel, food, transportation, and diapers. However, the event spurred a larger conversation about how to help unexpectedly stranded travelers who need non-life-threatening medical attention or need some other kind of aid.
"We could be a resource point for those looking for that kind of help," Dobson said. "From food vouchers to a room at a hotel...There should be a way that we could give them an avenue to get potential donations and resources."
Malinowski said the Chapel has already contacted local nonprofits like the 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 anything like this. You know, Boise is a giving community," he said. "We would love to be able to — when the situation arises — help someone through a difficult time."
Individuals and organizations interested in helping the Chapel can contact Malinowski at email@example.com.