Spark of Service

Inspired by his hard-working parents, accountant Chris McNeely has a heart for service that led him to become one of the pioneers of Generation Huntington.

By Carter Taylor Seaton

Chris McNeely is no stranger to hard work or to helping others. He grew up with hard-working parents who regularly helped the needy folks in their Boone County town of Madison. While his father was an underground coal miner for 35 years, he also owned a motorcycle shop, which his wife managed. Chris also worked in the family’s shop from middle school through college.

“Having two blue-collar working parents instilled the commitment, motivation and hard work that a lot of people need throughout their career,” Chris says.

No doubt these characteristics led him to become a partner at The Fyffe Jones Group of accountants and to help found Generation Huntington, a committee of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

After high school, Chris entered Marshall University in 1996 and earned an accounting degree. In 2000, he was hired by The Fyffe Jones Group and joined the Chamber of Commerce. That’s where it all began. Chris was part of an interest group of some of the younger chamber members who formed the Young Professionals Committee in 2006. After a few years, the group rebranded itself as Generation Huntington partly because the young, energetic members were surpassing the original age limit and they didn’t want to lose them.

“They were way too involved for us to kick them out,” he says, laughing.

Since then, he’s served as the committee’s social chairman and has worked on several community service projects, such as repainting the Huntington underpasses and going to various schools on career day, which led to serving on the boards of various nonprofit organizations.

Currently, he’s on the board of directors of Team for West Virginia’s Children and the Cabell-Huntington Hospital Foundation Board. In the past he also served on the Marshall University Alumni Association Board and was very active in the Barboursville Lions Club as its treasurer. According to Chris, if you look at the names of that original interest group of the Chamber of Commerce, you’ll also find them on many of the area’s nonprofit boards of directors.

“Early on we understood that we can make a difference by helping out the organizations that have been doing it for a while, but just need a little bit of help,” he says.

Chris and his wife, Mary Jane, have passed on the idea of helping others to their own children, Ethan and Abigail. Seven years ago, when Ethan was 3-years-old, he had a medical issue that required him to stay at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

There, children receive toys to help make their stay a bit less scary. When the Hoops Family Children’s Hospital opened at Cabell Huntington Hospital, Chris felt a similar program was needed. He and several others founded Ethan’s Toy Box, named in honor of his son, to gather toys to donate to the children’s hospital to provide the same comfort level to kids admitted there. For her part in helping to organize Ethan’s Toy Box, the Women’s Philanthropy Society of the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation also presented a youth service award to Chris’s daughter Abigail, now a sophomore at Cabell Midland.

When Chris first came to Huntington, he didn’t know many business professionals, let alone people his own age. Generation Huntington changed all that while also allowing him an opportunity to be of service to his adopted city. Now, he counts some of his closest friends as those he met in the organization.

He says, “When you’re working side by side with someone you get to know them, you get to trust them, you get to share your common likes and interests. Without an organization like Generation Huntington, it may have taken us three or four years longer to create some new excitement in town, but that organization brought everyone together.”

Carter Taylor Seaton is a freelance writer living in Huntington. She is the author of two novels and the nonfiction book, Hippie Homesteaders. She received the 2014 Literary Merit Award from the West Virginia Library Association, the Marshall University College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015 and the Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achivement in the Arts in 2016. Her biography of Ken Hechler, The Rebel in the Red Jeep, was published in May 2017.

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