Jimmy "Woo-Hoo" Butcher has spent the past six months showering at an athletic club because of his home's failing septic system.
There was no way Butcher, 46, of Kennewick, who is developmentally challenged, could afford to replace the system, his family said. His only income is Social Security and part-time work bagging groceries at Albertsons.
So he toughed it out, trudging to Tri-City Court Club each day to clean up for work and his other obligations. He serves as a volunteer crossing guard and reading aide at local elementary schools, coaches youth hockey and sings in a church choir.
Now a few Kennewick businesses have stepped forward to make sure Butcher could shower in his home again.
"It just seemed like the right thing to do for someone who does so much and asks for so little," said Dave Retter, owner and broker of Windermere Real Estate Tri-Cities.
Work to replace Butcher's septic system is underway, thanks to a $5,000 donation from Retter and the efforts of the Benton-Franklin Health Department and contractor Ray Poland & Sons, Inc.
It's a gift that overwhelmed Butcher when he was told of it.
"When I found out what the surprise was, I had happy tears," he told the Herald.
Butcher is something of a local celebrity in Kennewick and a noted area sports fan. He's known for his dedication to the Americans, whom he cheers on with his trademark yell. He sometimes sings the national anthem before matches. The team commissioned a bobblehead statue of him in 2011 that was handed out to fans.
He's also known for his frequent community service. The Benton-Franklin chapter of the American Red Cross gave him a "Good Neighbor" award in March for his volunteerism and positive attitude.
While challenged, Butcher lives independently and cares for himself in a double-wide trailer in central Kennewick. Trouble with the septic system cropped up about six months ago, despite it being serviced and pumped out, said Earleyne Baze, Butcher's aunt.
He stopped taking showers at home to ease the strain on the system, which limited the time he could spend at home, Baze said.
Baze approached Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg about helping Butcher early this fall. Hohenberg said he's a big fan of Butcher and what he does for the community. The police chief reached out to Retter to see if he had any ideas to take care of the problem.
Retter's daughter had told her father about seeing Butcher at Americans games and Retter said he'd seen coverage of Butcher's contributions to the community in the Herald.
But the businessman met Butcher for the first time last week. He, Hohenberg, Butcher's family and others surprised the community volunteer at his job and told him the septic system would be replaced. No charge. Consider it an early birthday present, they said.
"I don't think he stopped crying for 10 minutes," Retter said.
Baze said she's just happy her prayers for her nephew were answered and Hohenberg said the community support for Butcher is "a great Christmas story." Butcher himself is still grateful.
"It felt like a big weight had been lifted from my shoulders when I found out," he said.
But the story isn't over yet -- Hohenberg is taking Butcher to Retter's offices Tuesday for one more surprise.
"We're going to sing 'Happy Birthday' to him," Retter said.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver. Photo Editor Bob Brawdy contributed to this story.