Whidbey charity gets national attention

Facebook fame finds Garage of Blessings

The Garage of Blessings had its 15 minutes of Facebook fame recently. Make that 22 minutes and six seconds.

The Oak Harbor nonprofit organization and its founder, Kristiina Miller, starred in a recent episode of “Returning the Favor,” a Facebook series starring Mike Rowe.

Rowe and his Hudson Media film crew spent nearly a week in Oak Harbor last November. Most of the time they were behind the scenes with local residents who volunteered to concoct various surprises.

One chilly overcast November day, the cameras rolled as Miller gave Rowe a tour of the facility. That’s when Rowe revealed gift upon gift, repeatedly yelling, “But wait, there’s more!”

Rowe arranged to lease the space next to Garage of Blessings so it could expand. He then presented Miller with a $34,000 check to pay rent for two years.

“I was told all these years you’ve never had an office,” Rowe said when he opened a new door with Miller’s name on it. “That’s unacceptable.”

Restrooms were also included in the revamped facility.

Residents and businesses around Oak Harbor volunteered to help Rowe’s crew with renovations. A 2001 van was also donated and painted with the green Garage of Blessings logo. The van came with a $3,500 check for future repairs.

Rowe, who starred in “Dirty Jobs” and “Deadliest Catch, said he was approached by Facebook two years ago about creating a “feel good” series.

“We look for super philanthropic people making a difference in their community and do something nice that we hope is a favor for them,” he said in an interview after the filming.

People send in their suggestions of open-hearted hometown folk to feature to the Facebook site, Rowe said.

Apparently, people really like “Returning the Favor.” One segment has 8 million views, another 16 million and one has tallied more than 30 million views.

“I think we hit 3 million after three days,” Miller said Friday. “That’s pretty cool.”

The big “Reveal” on the Facebook segment shows Miller’s shocked face, the tearful reaction of her daughter and her husband reacting in disbelief.

The show is found under Season 2, episode 11 on the Facebook site of “Returning the Favor” at www.facebook.com/ReturningTheFavor/