By Jim Davis The Herald Business Journal
EVERETT — Mike Thomas’ Suburban finally broke down. His wife’s Subaru — the one with more than 300,000 miles — keeps having problems.
That’s why Saturday’s news was so welcome.
Thomas was handed the keys to a 2004 Honda Civic, a new set of wheels given to him through a program called Wheels to Prosper.
Thomas, 70, who lives in a rural area near Machias, was selected because of his need and his commitment to the community.
“We’ve always helped people and my kids say, ‘Why do you do that?’” Thomas said. “I’m a Christian and we feel that we should do stuff to help other people.”
He was nominated by his sister-in-law, Joy Thompson, who said that Thomas is always helping friends, neighbors and people in his church, Victory Foursquare Gospel Church in Marysville.
“He’s the most amazing man I know in my life,” Thompson said. “He’s a humble servant.”
Wheels to Prosper is a national initiative by auto repair shops to fix up older cars and give them to people who are in need or who provide service in the community. Shops around the country have donated more than 50 cars and trucks so far.
Mike Doherty, who owns M&N Absolute Auto Repair, heard about the program and decided that he wanted to do it. The Honda was donated to the shop by someone who didn’t want to pay to have it repaired.
Doherty and his employees spent 27 hours fixing the engine, clutch, water pump and timing belt and installing new brakes and tires. The car was detailed on the inside and the front bumper received a paint touch up.
Doherty wasn’t sure how much the car was worth.
“Probably not what I spent fixing it,” he said. “But that’s not the point.”
He and his wife, Vicki, put out a call for nominations from the community in April for a deserving person. They received more than 40 letters. They asked a panel of five people including a couple of business owners and a clergyman to choose the winner and two finalists.
The Dohertys invited the three finalists along with their customers and others in the business community to the shop on Saturday for the giveaway.
They set up tables in the garage, fired up the barbecue and chilled soda and water in the cooler. And they put up a bouncy house in the parking lot for kids.
“I think this brings out the good in people,” Vicki Doherty said. “I really do.”
Then, Mike Doherty stood before the small crowd and announced the runners up. Those finalists were: Sandra Dillings of Everett who is a volunteer at the YWCA and the Everett Gospel Mission who hasn’t had a car for years, and Andrea Cantrell, also of Everett, who wakes up at 4:30 each morning to catch a bus for training as a nursing assistant.
Both women were given Fred Meyer gift cards for $150 apiece.
“I’m blessed to have been here,” Dillings said.
Then, Doherty announced that Thomas was the winner. He took him out to show him the black Civic parked outside the garage and let him get behind the wheel.
“This is a humbling experience,” Thomas said, adding about his effort helping others, “You don’t do it for anything.”