SHELLSBURG, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) — Gary Cookus remembers welcoming his new neighbors to town three years ago.
"I met (them) at Wildcat (Golf Course) having dinner," he recalls about his first encounter with Jen and Brian Steadman. "I just felt like I needed to say, 'Hello.'"
"Nobody was talking to them," he laughs. "It's what I do."
That was the start of a friendship between Gary and the Steadmans - and what ultimately brought a bunch of runners to Gary's house in Shellsburg on a Sunday morning in July.
Health issues had been keeping Gary from upkeep on his house, which was in dire need of a paint job. The Shellsburg City Council was even telling Gary to get it taken care of.
Unable to do the physical work on his house, Gary still recognizes good work when he sees it. That's why he gave Jen a donation for her birthday in July for her work as a board member for Corridor Running.
"Runners are very unique in that each one of us has a story," Jen says, "but we just support one another and we will always be that way."
That means running a leg of life's race that somebody else can't.
"Right off the bat after he did that, I told my husband, 'I know what we're doing for Gary,'" Jen says. "We're gonna go in and paint his house."
A donation Gary made for someone else was sent right back to him in the form of brushes, buckets, and about eight people getting that paint job done for him.
"Very heartfelt. It's been a really happy thing for me," Gary says as his house is painted in the background. Others in town have been helping him with carpentry and plumbing work, as well as cleaning out his gutters.
"It's been a great, great thing," he says.
The same can be said for a friendship started with a simple conversation three years ago.
"He always has something funny to say," Jen says as she sits next to Gary.
"May not be nice," Gary replies, followed by a laugh that seems to punctuate most of his sentences.
"He keeps us going," Jen adds. "Never a dull moment with Gary."