GRANITE FALLS — Tony Coty used to hold a sign saying “need work” outside of the Rite Aid.
He spent many nights sleeping on sidewalks with his 104-pound companion, Bella, a husky with traces of red wolf.
But this Christmas Eve, for the first time in years, he didn’t have to worry about where they would keep warm after sunset.
Now, Coty has a few jobs doing landscaping and yard work. And Bella has an entire couch for a bed of her own.
“It’s definitely given me a better frame of mind,” said Coty, 61, standing outside of the Coachmen travel trailer with Bella. “It’s made my life a lot easier to try to get back on track.”
Angel Resource Connection has since purchased two other trailers for his neighbors, Dan Hagar and Charles Moody, who couldn’t afford to replace their ramshackle old abodes.
In the gravel lot, behind the Go Mart & Smoke shop, the three men in their three trailers are doing what most people are trying to do: just get by.
And — they’re the first to admit — they’ve had some amazing help.
Penelope Protheroe, who runs Angel Resource Connection, has kept in touch.
Protheroe and volunteers fill their propane tanks, do their laundry and bring them groceries.
She even pet-sits and visits the vet with Bella, as well as Hagar’s Mexican Chihuahua, Little Bit, and Moody’s two black-and-white cats, Woody and Midnight. The organization visits the row of trailers every Wednesday to serve a hot meal to whoever is hungry.
Trailer parks get a bad rap, Protheroe said.
“As soon as you pitch in and you help out, it changes your heart. It changes your outlook,” Protheroe said. “These are just kindhearted people having a hard time.”
Moody and Hagar both have disabilities that make walking difficult.
Angel Resource Connection helped them apply for permanent subsidized housing, but the wait for openings can be five to eight years, Protheroe said.
Once the men pay the roughly $600 monthly rent for their trailer spaces, they have less than $200 a month to live on, she said.
A tiny community has blossomed in the lot, home to six other trailers and their residents.
“We all look out for each other,” said Hagar, 53, at the doorway of his trailer, a Keystone Hideout.
Their most recent mission has been looking for a lost dog of one of the residents, who runs a thrift store in the same building as the smoke shop, Protheroe said. The dog, a brindle-colored mix named Sunday, ran off when the building caught fire on Monday. The owner is at a Seattle hospital being treated for burns, Protheroe said.
Before Hagar met Protheroe, he lived in a trailer that was rotting, with black mold and broken appliances. She convinced the nonprofit’s board of directors to replace it for about $9,500.
Hagar used to work as a bouncer at a local bar. But in recent years, he hasn’t been able to work as the symptoms of his Type II diabetes have worsened.
Angel Resource Connection also purchased him an electric scooter, so now he can run errands and grocery shop on his own, even though he doesn’t have a car.
“I was on my own until I met Penelope. She saved me,” said Hagar. “She saved everybody here. She’s been a real blessing.”
During a recent visit to the lot, she delivered each of them Poinsettia plants and holiday gift baskets, filled with snacks, fresh fruit and treats for their animals.
Bella got a gourmet dog biscuit, iced to resemble a snow man. She nibbled then tried to bury it, nudging it into the gravel with her pink nose.
“Everybody loves my dog. They say they love me, but it’s my dog,” Coty said. “She’s got quite the following.”
Protheroe first met Coty at a clothing giveaway at the local library. When he learned of an open spot at the small trailer park, the nonprofit helped him pay to reserve it. Protheroe posted online seeking a trailer for him. Within an hour, someone had donated the trailer, and someone else had volunteered to help move it. Coty moved in three days later, in April.
He started working the next day, Protheroe said.
Moody, 64, is especially thankful for Protheroe’s cheeseburgers — made with Beyond-brand vegetarian patties and a dab of mustard.
They’re like Popeye’s spinach, said Moody, who doesn’t usually have an appetite.
He has three fractured ribs now and has broken his back twice in the past. So Protheroe is always trying to entice him with something delicious.
He’s lived in the trailer park for three years. His old trailer was barely livable, ant-infested and without heat and hot water, he said.
Now, his new trailer, a Nash, is pest-free. Inside are a few festive silver and blue ball ornaments duct-taped to the ceiling, some tinsel around the microwave and a miniature Christmas tree in the shelving above his miniature dining room.
“It’s perfect,” said Moody. “I don’t need anything else.”