Larry Miller volunteered, recruited and fundraised to rebuild the fence at Cocoon House’s north Arlington facility. A strong windstorm earlier this year damaged the fence. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Volunteer helps mend damaged Cocoon House fence in Arlington

ARLINGTON — A windstorm toppled part of the fence surrounding the home for teen mothers. Wooden posts lost their footing in the dirt and the section of fence still standing was rotting from age and the rain.

Cocoon House was staring at a $8,000 to $9,000 bill. That money was meant to help those without a home.

There was a more important cause to invest in than replacing a fence.

Cocoon House provides shelter and services to homeless youth in Snohomish County. In addition to its primary location in Everett, it provides housing to a handful of teenage mothers and their young ones at a house located in Arlington.

The repairs would put a big dent in the budget, volunteer coordinator Marty Shaw said.

Larry Miller was looking for ways to lend a hand.

One of Miller’s co-workers organized a company backpack and school supply drive for Cocoon House. Since then, Miller has been more aware of the young people he passes on the street.

He wanted to do more.

So, he visited Cocoon House. He asked a question that Shaw said not many volunteers ask.

“What do you need?”

As a nonprofit, Cocoon House is always looking for volunteers. The organization tries to accomplish six different tasks with one person, Shaw said.

Cocoon House did not have someone on staff with the expertise, or time, to rebuild the fence.

Miller was a home builder and carpenter for 25 years before he transitioned into real estate 18 years ago.

He sought out deals on lumber and supplies from local businesses, such as Premier Fence in Marysville and Chinook Lumber in Arlington. He also recruited volunteers from Carpenters in Action, a group with the North Puget Sound Carpenters Local 70 union.

In Miller’s free time, he went door-to-door informing people of the construction project happening in the neighborhood. Some gifted donations. He also started a GoFundMe page. About $1,700 was raised to purchase the project supplies.

“We got their fence all fixed and incorporated some landscaping,” Miller said. “Then the mothers could really focus on their children. It’s a ripple effect of what a small act can do.”

Miller’s involvement didn’t end with this project. He offered to assist with additional construction projects and to coordinate hiking trips for the teens.

A second fundraising campaign is in the works. The proceeds will go toward buying winter coats for the kids and teens.

Miller didn’t come to get his fill of “warm and fuzzies” and then leave, Shaw said.

“He’s blowing us away with his ability to contribute and his self-driven nature, month after month,” Shaw said.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins@heraldnet.com

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