Not all heroes wear red capes.
Case in point: The story of John and Janet Workman, a local retired couple who simply wanted to help out and do what’s right when the opportunity presented itself.
When the Pearl Hill Fire ravaged through parts of north central Washington, one of the hardest-hit areas was the town of Bridgeport, where fire damaged and razed many properties, including a mobile home park in the area.
The Workmans learned of the devastation in the area through a friend’s social media post and they figured they could help.
“A classmate of mine posted on Facebook a post from (an organization called) Okandogs. They were asking for donations to build a homeless family — who lost everything in the fire — a cabin before winter set in,” said Janet Workman, who along with her husband John have lived in Montesano for the past 40 years. “So my husband and I have had this fifth-wheel (trailer) since 2007. We haven’t used it in three years, so we talked it over and in my mind it was a quick, easy solution for their situation.”
Once Janet vetted Okandogs and found them to be a reputable charitable organization, she reached out to them in hopes they’d be interested. Needless to say, they were.
After sending out a few emails and photos describing the trailer, the Workmans received a call from the Okandogs Community Outreach Director, Penelope Varn, to go over the particulars.
“Penelope called me and we talked, because they wanted to make sure we weren’t sending them a piece of garbage,” Janet said. “And I wanted to make sure it was going to somebody that actually needed it.”
“When I spoke with her, she had heard about us and the work we were doing bringing hay to ranchers,” said Varn, whose organization went from its normal duties as a dog rescue facility to assisting those in the community affected by the fire. “That’s when she called us to donate the trailer to us.”
According to Varn, the Workmans offered to donate the trailer to Okandogs so that the it could be sold and the funds put to good use. Varn had a slightly different plan.
“I told her I wanted to take this right to somebody whose house burned down.” Varn said.
But there was one stipulation, Okandogs had to handle the transport of the trailer, which turned out not to be as easy as one would think. The trailer featured a goose-neck hitch and its sheer size meant a vehicle larger than a 3/4-ton truck would be needed to properly do the job. Janet spent several days emailing and sending photos of the trailer to potential transporters before finding someone to haul it.
And, upon closer inspection, it was discovered the sink in the trailer had a large crack in it that could not be fixed. Janet found a replacement on eBay that was installed before shipment took place.
Three weeks after the fortuitous phone call between Janet Workman and Penelope Varn, Tom Bosh and Eileen Birdsong of Portland picked up the trailer and drove a total of 500 miles in one day to see it delivered to Bridgeport.
And it was just in time, as the family receiving the trailer — an immigrant family from Mexico with an 11-year old son — was about to be out on the streets as the neighbors they were temporarily staying with moved back to California that weekend. But because of the efforts of the many good Samaritans in this story, they didn’t have to.
“They had nowhere to go, but were able to sleep in their own bed because the trailer arrived that night.”
For playing their part in this good deed, the Workmans don’t feel as though they are heroes and shy away from the limelight this story has generated as multiple media outlets have reported on it and it has reached tens of thousands of people on social media.
“We were not looking for any notoriety or anything like that. That was the furthest thing from our minds,” Workman said. “Our only wish would be for somebody to pay it forward.”
It’s safe to say that the Workmans, Okandogs, Bosch and Birdsong are definitely heroes to at least one grateful family.