By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
The truck rolled in and the crew got busy. Workers hauled out double-door refrigerators, Frigidaire dishwashers, Samsung microwave ovens, new gas ranges, Bunn coffee makers, Moen faucets, even flower baskets bursting with blooms.
In Everett’s Lowell neighborhood Thursday, it looked as if Lowe’s had a job putting finishing touches on new condos. It was a Lowe’s truck loaded with new appliances, and all the workers came from Lowe’s stores.
It wasn’t a job, though. It was a gift. The site wasn’t a condo complex, it was the Everett Gospel Mission Women and Children’s Shelter.
Through the Lowe’s Heroes program, it was makeover time for four big kitchens at the shelter.
“Oh my, what a great gift for us,” said Sylvia Anderson, CEO of the Everett Gospel Mission. Anderson said there are now 69 residents at the shelter, 20 of them children. Years ago, the complex housed patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Through our Heroes program, we do projects for communities in which our stores are located,” said Jim Wilde, a Lowe’s human resources manager. Each store is allocated a certain amount of money for a project, he said.
“This year, with the need at the Everett women’s shelter so great, I recruited seven stores. Together, they were able to provide all new appliances, paint the kitchens, redo cabinets and put up hanging baskets,” he said.
About 45 Lowe’s employees volunteered Thursday. Some painted or refinished cabinets. Others installed sink fixtures. At noon, they shared a barbecue lunch with residents.
Workers came from stores all over the region, from Smokey Point to Tukwila. For 10 years, Lowe’s Heroes program has helped nonprofit groups and public schools all over the country. More than 1,300 projects have been done, and about $1.3 million in merchandise donated.
The value of appliances and materials given to the shelter Thursday is about $20,000, Wilde said.
“Isn’t that phenomenal?” said Brian Fredrickson, the Everett Gospel Mission’s director of development. Fredrickson said one unit was recently renovated, but the kitchens worked on Thursday needed sprucing up.
Jewel Stuart, 58, said she owes her life to help she found at the shelter. She has lived there since May.
A soft-spoken woman, Stuart said a relationship that brought her to Washington last year turned abusive, and she had to leave. She landed on the streets in Everett after earlier hard times in Illinois. There, she said, she was mugged and hit on the head.
In Everett, she turned to a church. People there helped her find the shelter. Now in counseling, Stuart has been accepted into the shelter’s 18-month transitional program. “I had lost all confidence,” she said. “Slowly, day by day, it’s been built up. If I had not found this place, I might be dead.”
Lowe’s volunteers put their hearts into Thursday’s tasks. “I have been in a situation where I was close to being homeless. It really can happen to anybody,” said Cheryl Toro, a manager at the Bellevue Lowe’s. Toro said she helped on a Lowe’s Heroes project in the South after Hurricane Katrina.
McKenna Wilde, 21, doesn’t work at Lowe’s, but wore a red Heroes T-shirt while scrubbing kitchen walls Thursday. The daughter of Jim Wilde, she has hosted dinners for shelter residents. “I’ve done mission trips around the world. When I’m home, I like to help in the community where I grew up,” she said.
“It was one of the things on my bucket list,” said Joe Laughlin, the team leader. “I brought it up at one of my morning meetings and everybody wanted to help.”
Laughlin, 52, has a horse trailer converted for tailgate parties. He and nearly 20 co-workers collected about $850 for the meal of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, bottled water and cookies. They spent $500 on food, and planned to donate the rest to the mission.
His route home from work every night takes Laughlin past the men’s shelter. “My heart drops seeing all those people,” he said.
At the women’s shelter Thursday, Stuart voiced the gratitude other residents were feeling.
“It’s a blessing, these people coming,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.