WASHINGTON CITY — Every day when Charlie Brown drove by a rundown trailer sitting on a desolate plot of land on Washington Dam Road he wondered if somebody lived there. Then the day came when his curiosity got the best of him and he decided to stop and find out.
Brown, a truck driver by occupation, lives just off of Washington Dam Road a few miles from the woeful looking trailer. Last year, about a month before Christmas, he slowed down as he neared the trailer, parked, and walked up to the door.
Brown was met by Gary Rutherford, a 74-year-old man originally from New Hampshire. Rutherford was living in the tiny camping trailer parked on private property with the owner’s permission, but he lacked the basic necessities that most people enjoy.
Over the next few weeks Brown delivered meals and spent time with Rutherford. After a while he decided he needed to help his new friend.
“He had no power and no running water in the trailer, so I decided he might need a generator,” Brown said.
It was really the generator that started everything that followed.
Five years earlier
Rutherford relocated to Utah while making a trek across the U.S. on foot with a rolling backpack. His trek began in Maine; from there he made his way across 21 states. Once he arrived in the Beehive state he decided to take a break for a few months in Southern Utah before continuing on. That’s when he began living in a tent on the Washington Dam Road property, he said.
After a while the tent no longer provided enough shelter, so a few months later a small camper trailer was moved onto the property. It was what Rutherford lived in for four years.
Then, in November 2016, fate stepped in as Brown knocked on his door.
Helping a friend
Brown set up a GoFundMe account to help raise money to purchase a generator that would allow Rutherford to have power in the trailer. After just a few weeks enough money was raised to purchase not only the generator, but also blankets, socks, clothing, a lock, a bicycle and other items that would help the man stay warm during the winter months.
“We got him the bicycle after we found out he was walking more than 7 miles into town,” Brown said, “and he’s 74 years old.”
In the beginning of December 2016 Brown and his wife wrapped the items and invited Rutherford over to their home for a holiday dinner. Rutherford arrived for the meal that evening and was shocked when he was presented with numerous wrapped gifts, one after another.
“All of the items purchased from the GoFundMe account came from the generosity of people Gary would probably never meet,” Brown said.
A few months later, Brown decided he would put together another campaign to raise money to purchase a new trailer for Rutherford.
“I had friends from Chicago, Australia, Boston, the Cayman Islands and numerous other areas who donated money back in November and they doubled their donations to get Gary a trailer,” Brown said.
In less than one month the GoFundMe account showed a balance of $2,800 and within days Brown found a trailer that was listed for sale at $2,500. But once the seller discovered the purpose behind the trailer’s purchase he lowered the price to $2,000 and the deal was finalized.
More than 60 people donated to the cause from all over the world, Brown said, and many of those generous people he himself had never met.
The new Prowler trailer was moved onto the property in April and the old trailer was hauled away. On May 11 when Rutherford was handed the title to his new trailer, he said, “Now I live in a home.”
Brown and Rutherford continue to see each other often. Now when Brown drives down Washington Dam Road past Rutherford’s place he has quite a different feeling – a feeling of gratitude, he said.
“I believe that the man upstairs has blessed me my whole life, so it’s time to give it back,” Brown said, “so that’s what we do.”
Brown also believes in “paying it forward,” a philosophy he describes as an act of kindness among strangers, which leads to a more caring society. Everyone wants to change the world, he said, and they were able to do that, enlisting the kindness of strangers so that the world of a 74-year-old man living alone in a run-down camping trailer on Washington Dam Road now has friends and a place to call home.
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