Partnership lifts big burdens off Bothell man’s life

For most homeowners, an unfinished project is just a nagging thought. Something needs doing — someday.

For Darold Thomas, work that hadn’t been done in a long time could have cost him his house.

Thomas, a 52-year-old Boeing worker, has serious health problems. A diabetic, he said he also has brain damage from a head injury suffered in a 2005 motorcycle accident. His health has deteriorated in recent months. For a year, he hasn’t been able to work.

“I’ve been becoming quite ill. I’m suffering a lot of pain,” said Thomas, who lives in Bothell near Lynnwood High School. “My mail was piling up. I was going through it and saw this notice from the insurance company. They weren’t going to renew my policy.”

With the renewal date of his homeowner’s insurance policy past, Thomas said he was in a fix. A deck project on the house had been started years ago. It was unfinished and needed railings. His yard, more than an acre, was overgrown. He also kept old cars, but can no longer tinker with them.

On June 3, a team of helpers came to his rescue. Most were strangers. By the end of a long day of work, Thomas had met and thanked them all.

“We had close to 20 people here. There were two I knew from my union,” said Thomas, a member of IAM District 751, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. “I never imagined something like this, that somebody would come out and do something like that,” he said.

With his deck completed and his yard in better shape, Thomas can now shop for affordable insurance. Without the work being done, the deck was a liability. Thomas said he faced having to pay much more expensive high-risk rates.

The work project was organized through a new partnership between United Way of Snohomish County and the Snohomish County Labor Council. United Way’s Labor Advisory Committee was formed last September, said Josh Estes, the committee’s chairman and a volunteer at Thomas’ home.

“We were looking for an opportunity to harness the energy of labor organizations,” Estes said Friday.

Labor has a history of lending a hand in Snohomish County. “We’ve assisted in the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive, helped with Toys for Tots, and built ramps for disabled people in the community,” Estes said.

By linking with United Way, he said, union members will reach a wider community of people in need and have more resources to help.

For the work at Thomas’ home, volunteers came from IAM 751, the Washington Education Association, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1579, the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists and other organizations.

Estes, 29, understands that many of our neighbors have fallen on hard times. A former member of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 183, Estes lost his job with this year’s closure of the Kimberly-Clark mill in Everett.

“Our local disbanded. People are moving or pursuing other directions. About half have gone back to work,” he said.

Estes is back in school to study energy management. “I may never again have time to give back that I have right now,” he said of his involvement with United Way’s labor group.

At his home in Bothell, Thomas worries about the future. He and his wife, Angela, who works for Goodwill, have no children. They have lived in their house about 20 years.

“When I bought this home, I had all these plans. I was going to work hard, pay off my house, retire and have fun. None of that happened,” Thomas said.

He hopes to work again, but isn’t sure he’ll be healthy enough. His Boeing job involves testing wire bundles that go into airplanes.

Thomas is filled with gratitude for workers who gave up a Sunday. They finished his deck, cleaned his yard, and helped him out of financial trouble.

“This means more than I can say,” he said. “I wish I was on their team and could be helping, too.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,

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